Fukushima: “no safe dose” of radiation

A second attempt to stop radioactive water leaking into the Pacific ocean at the Fukushima nuclear plant by using paper and sawdust bound with a chemical compound failed April 4. Engineers are now resorting to a third plan: building mounds of silt around the reactor to filter radioactive particles. (Daily Mail, April 4) Officials in Fukushima prefecture have launched an emergency program to measure radiation levels in school playgrounds. More than 1,400 schools and nurseries will be tested over two days amid growing anxiety among local parents. Officials say there should be no risk to children if they stay outside a 30-kilometer evacuation zone. (BBC News, April 4) Efforts to protect Tokyo’s water supply from radiation have led to a run on Indonesian coconut husks. Granulated charcoal made of the husks is used in Tokyo area treatment plants. Prices for the absorbent carbon material have jumped 44% since the disaster started. (Bloomberg, April 4)

Despite official assurances. public advocates insist there is no safe dose of radiation. “The US Department of Energy has testified that there is no level of radiation that is so low that it is without health risks,” said Jacqueline Cabasso, director of the Western States Legal Foundation. Cabasso explained that natural background radiation exists, “But more than 2,000 nuclear tests have enhanced this background radiation level, so we are already living in an artificially radiated environment due to all the nuclear tests.”

“Karl Morgan, who worked on the Manhattan Project, later came out against the nuclear industry when he understood the danger of low-levels of ionizing radiation—and he said there is no safe dose of radiation exposure,” Cabasso continued, “That means all this talk about what a worker or the public can withstand on a yearly basis is bogus. There is no safe level of radiation exposure. These so-called safe levels are coming from within the nuclear establishment.”

Karl Morgan, after a long career at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, he became a critic of nuclear power and weapons. Morgan, who died in 1999, began to offer court testimony for people who said they had been harmed by the nuclear industry. “Nobody is talking about the fact that there is no safe dose of radiation,” Cabasso added, “One of the reasons Morgan said this is because doses are cumulative in the body.”

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) published a report in 2006, “Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR) report, VII Phase 2” (NAS BEIR VII), which found “the committee concludes that the preponderance of information indicates that there will be some risk, even at low doses.” The concluding statement of the report reads: “The committee concludes that the current scientific evidence is consistent with the hypothesis that there is a linear, no-threshold dose-response relationship between exposure to ionizing radiation and the development of cancer in humans.” This means that the sum of several very small exposures to radiation has the same effect as one large exposure. (AlJazeera, April 4)

Officials now admit it will take months get the stricken reactors under control—and then possibly years to clean up the contaminated area. “It would take a few months until we finally get things under control and have a better idea about the future,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama, spokesman for the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. “We’ll face a crucial turning point within the next few months, but that is not the end.” (NY Daily News, April 4)

See our last post on the Fukushima disaster.

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