Posts Tagged ‘hot spot’

A lot of the rationale of supporters of non-evacuating Tokyo seems to revolve around the notion of hotspots. Hotspots are limited areas in which ground radiation spikes up compared to the surroundings. Although radiation is not negligible in Tokyo, some argue that it is even higher in similar cities where there hasn’t been any known nuclear incident, such as Hong Kong with more than 0.3 uSv/h at 1m above ground. Tokyo hotspots detected in Setagaya, around the Imperial Palace, etc. were not very satisfactorily explained in the news by the supposed presence of radium bottles left over (same explanation used several times).

Tokyo cityscape changes continually and buildings may disappear suddenly as one visits a street after a few years. Besides construction work and demolitions, low to medium intensity earthquakes regularly shake the city and cause shelves, TV sets, etc. to fall and smash on floors. It is difficult to imagine radium bottles lying around for 50 years untouched in these ever-moving conditions. Such bold statements from the government were largely accepted by the population who is eager to cling to any reassuring explanation for their hotspots.

Hotspots are perceived to be like rotten apples in an otherwise healthy basket, singularities which statisticians can dismiss in order to focus on the average radiation environment. Scarcity of hotspots seem to support this view, however monitoring is imperfect and reporting even worse.

Shortly after March eleven, a green tea grower from Shizuoka prefecture (south-west of Tokyo and near the Mount Fuji) reported that his tea was radiation-hot after he got it analyzed on a voluntary basis (Cf. link to New York Times story in Analysis Of Japanese Government Radiation Spread Report on SurvivalJapan). Panic followed among green tea growers who made sure that none of them would ever carry their tea leaves to a laboratory again. This is anecdotal but it illustrates how hotspots are discovered and buried in Japan. Therefore hotspots tend to seem isolated whereas, if the population wanted to seriously investigate, there might be more rotten apples.

Here is another anecdote: in the farming village from where I buy local vegetables and rice, I proposed a foreign friend of mine who grows organic food there to make some radioactivity measures – and in order to make it significant, to get organized with the local Japanese community and offer to check out their fields and rice paddies too. My friend replied that such discussions had already taken place and that the consensus was that, although it would nice to know that the soil is safe, it would have a devastating effect with commercial consequences, should we find anything unusual. I discreetly made a measurement there which showed it was alright (0.125 uSv/h with Inspector Alert right next to the wet, black soil) and told my friend about it. From reading the news and hearing people talks, I am convinced this is a relevant example of farmers’ attitude with respect to radiation monitoring nationwide – and hence the explanation of the scarcity of reported hotspots.

Hotspots monitoring in Japan is like searching for a sick tree at the edge of a forest, cutting the tree down and never look in this place again. (more…)

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Fukushima is the primary source of atmospheric radioactive material fallout. Radioiodine, which disappears rapidly, is regularly detected and shows that criticallity is still happening. Melt-through in three reactors and total lack of control and knowledge about conditions by TEPCO would make it at least three times worse as Chernobyl – yet this has still to become common sense and most people in north-eastern Japan try to reassure themselves that it is still safe until the fourth reactor blows up, which is only a matter of time. Tokyo should have been evacuated immediately and forever – after 8 months, an orderly evacuation could have been carried out and housing built but the Japanese government and mostly the population, who lives in denial, decided otherwise.

Usually SurvivalJapan leaves Tokyo out of the picture as anyone serious about their survival in Japan would have left the no man’s land area, including Tokyo, long ago. However, M. Goshi Hosono’s plan to spread radiation all over Japan is making its way, with potential effects outside the no man’s land, in what we call the monitored land, as can be read in the Japan Today article below and which was already mentioned on SurvivalJapan almost 3 months ago in Tokyo Imports 500,000,000 Kg Of Nuclear Waste.

Incinerators are less than 4 miles away from the Imperial Palace and popular places like Shibuya and Ebisu, which will all be under the radioactive fallout when winds abate.

I am told that yakuza are different from other similar organizations worldwide, as they supposedly appeared first to protect outcasts and organize work for them, and are nationalists who want to protect Japan and the Imperial Family. Mothers who occupy Hibiya Park in Tokyo (close to the Parliament, the Imperial Palace and headquarters of many large dysfunctional companies such as TEPCO and neighbor Mizuho) reported that harassment from right-wing militia somewhat relented when mothers told them that they would pack up their camping tents and leave if His Majesty would meet with them and ask them to. There are a few public enemies in the government, firms and media nowadays who are jeopardizing Imperial lives and the future of Japan – one can only wonder what yakuza associations are waiting for before saving this country if nobody else will, not that I am suggesting anything.

Winds will carry radioactive smog towards Chiba peninsula and Izu peninsula and archipelago depending on the season and weather. Winds seldom blow west but they occasionnally do, as Meteocentrale wind simulations show, and they sometimes even reach Osaka from Fukushima. The flying distance between Tokyo to Osaka (250 miles) is about the same order as between Fukushima to Tokyo (150 miles), although slightly less and Tokyo is a secundary source, not exactly like Fukushima itself.

Besides, the terrain configuration around Tokyo, i.e. the Kanto Plain, is unfortunately perfect to drive radiation fallout as we surmised from March eleven and was later proven by the presence of hotspots in Gunma, Saitama, etc. Further west, the region of Nagoya, in Aichi prefecture, will be also affected as well as the whole Nobi Plain, although less than the Kanto Plain of course. The whole coastal area between Tokyo and Nagoya, i.e. Shizuoka, etc. will be on the way on adverse days. Radioactive winds can also easily go through between Shiga and Mie prefectures, where mountains are low and several valleys let highways through to Osaka.

Japan Today – Tsunami debris from Miyagi to be incinerated in Tokyo this week

Dec. 13, 2011 –

TOKYO —

The first load of tsunami debris from Miyagi Prefecture will be test burned at a waste incineration plant in Tokyo’s Ota Ward on Tuesday and Wednesday, with further tests scheduled for Dec 20-21 at a Shinagawa Ward plant.

If the test burns go well, large-scale burning will commence next February at a rate of 150 tons per day, Tokyo metropolitan government officials said, Fuji TV reported. Under the plan, 10,000 tons of combustible debris from Onagawa will be disposed of in incineration facilities located on reclaimed land in the Tokyo Bay area.

Officials plan to burn 500,000 tons by 2013.

Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima prefectures have massive mountains of rubble, said to weigh more than 23 million tons.

The debris being sent to Tokyo is mainly wood and metal. By the end of next March, Tokyo will have received a total of 500,000 tons of debris from Miyagi and Iwate prefectures.

This article may still be available from its original source.

This post is an update of Geiger Counter Case Study: Inspector Alert published on SurvivalJapan in which some questions remained open, mainly about the relatively high values (although still in the safe range) which I measured with the system kindly lent to me by Safecast and from whom I received some further advice.

The Safecast bGeigie system is designed to measure mainly gamma rays (high energy protons, akin to X-rays) and hence is used at least one meter above ground in their radiation maps. Since I live in the monitored land, several hundred miles away from Fukushima, gamma radiation is low and not really a concern. Therefore I had measured instead beta radiation (high energy electrons or positrons which are emitted back from the ground after radioactive fall-out) at about one foot above ground. For convenience, I monitored the level of radiation with the Safecast display which communicates by radio with the Inspector Alert safely cast in its lunchbox style (in Japanese “bento”) box, along with the GPS and SD memory card to geo-locate and store results. The Safecast team advised against this methodology for beta radiation pick-up and advised me to use the Inspector Alert alone for that matter – which I did.

I read the user manual to set the Inspector Alert display in uSv/h as opposed to CPM (count per minute) as I am more familiar with this unit and it is more relevant for body effects. The user manual explains that the factor used by the device to convert CPM into uSv/h is based on Cesium-137, the radionuclide used for its calibration, so the uSv/hr display is less accurate for other nuclides (such as Cesium-134, Strontium-90, Iodine-131 and of course Uranium and Plutonium…). This is why Safecast uses the CPM raw data instead.

The first measure that I made was inside my home and the display changed widely even in a single place. A Geiger counter is not like a weighing scale: it does not give a result at once nor does it give a stable result. Therefore when a value is broadcast either by citizens or a governmental organization, it should be taken with a grain of salt. For instance, I could measure 0.120 uSv/h and any value between 0.090 and 0.150 uSv/h, that is about 25% more or less than the central value. Sometimes, some wilder values would come up: how do we interpret these?

Radiation is a random phenomenon which occurs naturally, so when a particle hits the Geiger counter sensor plate, it is registered and changes the overall measure value. The Inspector Alert averages measures over 30 seconds in order to get a more statistically relevant measure. Even then, the result is only displayed every 3 seconds so if one is moving, there is a delay between the measure and the display. Then there is the 15% accuracy which is probably an average: it means that some wild values (standard deviation) can occur from time to time. Other factors which can affect the results are solar flares (there was just a sunstorm by the way) and, probably, thermal drift if the device electronics is not properly compensated when temperature changes (any kind of electronics sensor is subject to this phenomenon). The bottom line is that measures could be twice as high depending on temperature, solar activity, randomness of natural radioactivity, types of radionuclides (including artificial ones from nuclear plants) and radiation (here it is a synthetic result of alpha, beta, gamma and X-rays), accuracy, resolution, etc.

Indeed, I could still measure inside and outside values from 0.055 to 0.225 uSv/h and even up to 0.355 uSv/h when spot on granite blocks which are naturally radioactive. These new measures were consistent with the range I had already measured with the full Safecast system. I could also check that the outer casing of Safecast suitcase and bento box did not emit stronger radiation than the room so the Geiger counter is likely not contaminated (and there should not be any calibration issue either according to the user manual).

I still could not double-check with another type of Geiger counter yet but these new results convinced me that they are normal. The maximum international value (except in post-Fukushima Japan) accepted is 1 mSv/year, which equates to 0.114 uSv/h. Given a 15% accuracy, it means that the Inspector Alert should read between 0.097 and 0.131 uSv/h which is indeed what it does most of the time (so we can dismiss occasional lower and higher results as products of standard deviation).

A final word of advice which I received from Safecast and which is also documented in the user manual is to use the timed count function of the Inspector Alert over at least 10 minutes to further smooth out results. There should be about 15% difference maximum between two such timed counts.

I hope that this update helps you to get a better idea about the capabilities and limitations of Geiger counters in general and specifically of the Inspector Alert – and of the analytical mindset and of the basic radiation knowledge necessary to properly use them. In any case, purchasing a Geiger counter to try and measure radioactivity in food does not make any sense (unless the food is irradiated to such a level that just staring at it is dangerous) and that monitoring the food trace is a safer and more reliable procedure. Thankfully, this is getting easier.

Several officials reportedly had some severe health problems which turned out to be lung diseases. Fukushima fall-out regularly visits Tokyo where evermore hotspots appear and get difficult to cover up by the authorities with “non-Fukushima related” statements. Blogs and twits regularly point out to the logical existence of radionuclides which are not officially monitored until they eventually get into mainstream news, as in the case of strontium and probably “soon” uranium and plutonium oxides – how soon largely depends on when citizens will find and get a lab a positive sample that will force the authorities to admit it.

Effects on lungs are somewhat controversial as with any radioactive hazard studied and reported by governmental agencies and the nuclear industry and academia. For instance, uranium has supposedly “No adverse health effects reported” on humans whereas it causes “Severe nasal congestion and hemorrage (sic), lung lesions and fibrosis, edema and swelling, lung cancer” on animals, according to Wikipedia. As humans are ordinary animals, there is no particular reason for this discrepancy besides the political need to support their participation to the nuclear industry. Likewise, some Fukushima workers supposedly within the irradiation norms died suddenly from “non-Fukushima related” causes diagnosed by doctors working for TEPCO, under the seal of privacy and without any advanced nor official research. For instance, Fukushima Diary reported in their “Two sludge disposal facilities workers had sudden death within 2 weeks” post that, during an emergency citizen conference held on 10/24/2011 to discuss about how to deal with the radioactive debris and sewage sludge from Fukushima, the fact that two sludge disposal facilities workers died all of a sudden only in two weeks in October was leaked by a worker at a sewage farm in Chiba. This information did not appear at first in mainstream news according to blogger M. Mochizuki. Then a third worker suddenly died, supposedly from septic shock, as he reported in his subsequent post, “The third dead worker [septic shock]“. Although it is not clear whether the article refers to the same ″third″ worker (age and date differ), the Independent, a UK mainstream newspaper, reported that the worker died on his second day of work, while being exposed to “only” 170 uSv on the day he died (no mention about his first day). The Independent mentions also that: “The Japanese government’s maximum level of exposure for male workers at the plant is 250 millisieverts for the duration of the effort to bring it under control.”, which is largely over 20 millisieverts usually tolerated in other countries. Even this latter limit, which is equivalent to about 50 uSv per day, is arbitrary, as there is no reason why a nuclear plant worker should be more resistant to radiation than the general public, for which the international limit is 1 millisievert (raised to 20 in Japan after Fukushima). If we dismiss TEPCO’s explanation for the death of this worker, it seems that “fairly low” levels of radiation, contrarily to official, academic and industrial reports which serve the same community, could kill in a single day. After all, this third worker was irradiated to a daily level sixty times higher than the maximum for a member of the general public on the day he died, and no data was published for the previous day, which could be ten times more for what we know, considered the levels of radioactivity on site and other information leaked on Twitter by workers.

Although on the paper uranium and plutonium oxides are almost completely evacuated by the human body when ingested, and that when inhaled in “small” amounts, they have not been proved to be lethal, it may cast some reasonable doubts when some official people get pneumonia or bronchitis during an exceptional warm autumn, and their place of work or residence happen to be reported as some of the hottest spots in Tokyo, and that they have visited extensively Fukushima and contaminated prefectures such as Iwate and Miyagi.

Fukushima Diary reported on October 1st that some of the worse hotspots were in found in the “mud in Diet” (0.5 uSv/h) and in front of the Imperial Palace (0.7 uSv/h). Natural background radiation is ten times less. In the same post, M. Mochizuki mentioned that Upper House President Takeo Nishioka (who died of pneumonia early Saturday) nearly fainted at the Diet, that he said that he was suffering from severe canker sore and that he could not sleep recently. Besides, M. Mochizuki reported that M. Nishioka sometimes lost his words at the Diet. Of course, we may dismiss any information or connection with Fukushima as M. Nishioka was already 75 years old and some hotter spots have been found since without any casualty reported. However, when 9 year-old Princess Aiko was taken to the hospital for a cold, I suspected that it was in fact a symptom of low radiation exposure, especially since she is young and therefore more sensitive. These days, the official version from the Imperial Household Agency (IHA) is that she, like M. Nishioka, caught pneumonia. The Diet and Imperial Palace are geographically close in Tokyo. Although I hope that, now that she has left the hospital, she will live on healthily, I would not be surprised if the IHA announced some “unexpected” complications. The members of the Imperial Family must be exemplary and the Imperial couple visited Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi two months after the nuclear disaster. Now, Emperor Akihito, who has “a fever due to a cold”, contracted bronchitis and had to go to the hospital. His immune system seems weakened, as “he appears to be fatigued and has lost some resistance to fight his illness” – which can be caused by a number of afflictions, including low-level radiation exposure, exacerbated by his old age (77). When he will die, it could be a signal for the Japanese Self-Defense Force to start a coup (Cf. Risk Of Coup In Japan? in SurvivalJapan). It would be quite a scandal if the Emperor was to become the victim of TEPCO and the government, the final straw that could very well serve as an excuse for the ultra-nationalist militaries to grab power.

These speculations will need to stand the test of time but I would not be surprised if the number of lung / respiratory diseases spiked, in of course a “non-Fukushima related” yet potentially lethal fashion in weeks to come, especially when officials or public figures are involved. After all, in the United States, “heart attack” is often a code name for drug overdose for this population, so pneumonia, bronchitis and, why not, severe asthma could become the same for radionuclide-induced cancers and acute poisoning (once in lungs, they move on into blood).

Update: Japan Times reported in April that pneumonia cases were on the rise in Tohoku, with a number of patients five to six times higher than the previous year at the same time.

SurvivalJapan reported on multiple occasions that after the irradiated food spread, the most dangerous threat is the government’s decision to allow the spread of nuclear waste throughout Japan. This decision has now been taken as reported by Mainichi Shimbun mainstream newspaper. Nuclear dump sites will include dug trenches as used when building a swimming pool, some existing toxic heavy metal facilities and the rest will be burnt at your local industrial waste incineration plant. All precautionary measures will be taken against any tap water and agricultural soil contamination… In fact, this spread began before it was officially decided as can be read in two other news articles from Asahi Shimbun, the first dating as early as June 2011.

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SurvivalJapan reported last week that a 2.2 uSv/h hotspot had been measured in Yokohama by a citizen, in  リーベスト中山 ゴミ捨て場 前 on August 3, after an initial measure of 0.2 uSv/h on July 22. In this spot situated in Nakayama (near Yokohama hospital), the limit of 1 mSv is reached in about 3 weeks. The site is in front of a dumping ground and its radiation level had increased tenfold in ten days. We mentioned that it was a sign that wide dumpings of radioactive waste exist, although here the origin could have been medical, especially with the hospital nearby. Yokohama city confirmed since that mud in the drain system contained 2700 tons of radioactive waste and, as if it was not shocking enough, that they planned to bury it at sea. This illustrates the typical Japanese government handling of industrial waste: just dump it in the wild. Actually it is also a common practice of the population as can be seen by driving in the beautiful Japanese mountains. Wild dumps of television sets, motorbikes, etc. can be found anywhere down the steep slopes but you may need to ride a bicycle to actually notice it. Many construction companies sites with highly-fenced parking lots in the mountains where they keep their trucks and building materials are littered by their garbage all around, which eventually is washed down into the rivers. “What you can’t see can’t hurt you” seems the basic Japanese motto, from ordinary domestic trash to radioactive elements. Following the citizen groups’ outcry, the Yokohama mayor announced that the burial project was officially cancelled. It will therefore go underground. The level of radioactivity was up to 6468 Becquerels/kg. The press-release from Yokohama city (in Japanese) is available here in PDF version. It is reproduced at the bottom of this post. Mainichi Shimbun also reported about the “incident” in a Japanese-only version provided hereafter, according to which the mayor is consulting for other ways to dispose the sludge. Locations of detected waste where in the Southern Sludge Recycle Center in Kanazawa (南部汚泥 資源化 センター 金沢)  and in the Northern Sludge Recycle Center in Tsurumi (北部汚泥 資源化 センター 鶴見).

Yokohama is historically an international port city and several global companies still have subsidiaries there. Expats from this area may reconsider putting their families at risk. As reported in SurvivalJapan, Greater Tokyo, originally a frontier of the no man’s land, began falling in its northern and eastern suburbs of Saitama and Chiba. Yokohama, in Kanagawa prefecture, is located on the southeastern side of Tokyo, which means that the front has fallen and the whole city should now be evacuated. The Arakawa River brings radioactive waters into the Bay of Tokyo from Saitama and should be monitored much more closely.

You may wonder what was this radioactive sludge doing there since according to the same newspaper, it should not have left the no man’s land (Cf. Nuclear Troublemaker Hosono’s Policy Promoted by Mainichi Daily News in SurvivalJapan). This clearly shows that all sludge recycle centers across the country should be monitored by citizens. Smokes from these centers can add to air-borne contamination. Finally the “recycled” waters are dumped in rivers where you may want your kids to avoid having a foot bath in summer – and forget about fishing.

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Sept. 12 – Maps of radiation measured by citizens in Kansai area today.

“Asphalt”: This is the level where the most radiation is measured.

Levels are globally low everywhere however the number of measures is not enough to provide a meaningful statistical data. Situation seems safer than in Tokyo without any hotspots detected by citizens. If the Japanese government had done its job containing contaminated food to the no man’s land, the area would be reasonably safe. However, the annual limit of 1 mSv corresponds to a little more than 0.10 uSv/h during a year – which will be reached within 6 more months with the current status. In France, for instance, this annual limit is 20 times higher for nuclear power plant male workers who seem to have a similar longevity as the rest of the population. Nevertheless, if you choose to strictly stay in the public maximum tolerance, moving to places with 0.05 uSv/h or less should be considered within 6 to 12 months.

Fukui / “Nuclear Ginza” : no data available for the string of nuclear power plants (blue squares at the top)…

Kyoto : levels are about 2 to 3 times above natural background radiation in many places (0.10 to 0.15 uSv/h), such as Teramachi and northern Kyoto city. Same for Kameoka.

Osaka : only one reading, absolutely normal in value, but the sampling is just not representative.

Himeji – Kobe : again a single reading, 2 times above normal (Kakogawa, 0.12 uSv/h).

Nara : just one reading, perfectly normal in value, but hard to rely upon due to its uniqueness. Kashihara in Nara prefecture scores in the upper range for the region (0.14 uSv/h).

Mie : a single, ordinary reading in Kameyama.

CRMS Western Japan Sept. 12, Asphalt Level

Data courtesy of みんなでつくる放射線量マップ (“Let’s make a map of radiation together”)