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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Will Fukushima run out of rescue workers?

At the site of the catastrophic triple meltdown in Fukushima, the plant operator, Tokyo Electric, is taking its sweet time testing workers for exposure to radiation. But they can't put it off forever, and when they do test, they're getting some not-so-good results. So far 31 workers have tested so high for internal exposure that the government is pulling them off the site and getting them medical attention.

It's not clear who those 31 folks are or what they've been doing, but whoever and whatever, that's 31 fewer people in the trenches trying to keep the disaster from getting worse. You wonder how many more employees and contractors are both skilled enough and reckless enough to take their places. And how long will the next wave be able to last? And the wave after that? We're three months into this incident, but it will be three years or more before the potential suicide missions are concluded.

Elsewhere, one person who's been following the Fukushima story closely has done a study of airborne beta radiation levels in the United States since the accident, in an attempt to see which areas have gotten how much. This person, who's not really identified, has come up with this report. If he or she is right, San Diego, Eureka, Salt Lake City, Arizona, and of course Hawaii got the worst of the initial blasts. We certainly can't vouch for the analysis, but it's an interesting read unless and until something more authoritative comes along.

You don't need a degree in statistics to understand this. It is so unspeakably sad what we have done to each other and to the planet. Meanwhile, radioactive cesium is showing up in Japanese whales. If you think the massive ongoing ocean pollution being caused by this disaster isn't going to affect America, perhaps you should think a little harder.

Comments (5)

During the research whaling that started in late April, 17 whales were caught, and researchers examined six of them.

Caught? CAUGHT? -- KILLED! that is.

*Research* my adze.


Gotta love this quote from the whaling piece "the radioactive material remained below the temporarily set upper limit". Right, if the old upper limit wasn't working make a new one. Figures don't lie; but liars can figure. And it looks like a lot of lying will be going on for a long time.

Re: "radioactive cesium is showing up in Japanese whales. If you think the massive ongoing ocean pollution being caused by this disaster isn't going to affect America, perhaps you should think a little harder."

While awaiting a film about Fukushima, it might be helpful, though not at all comforting, to recall that "The Cove" showed how tolerant the Japanese government is of dangerously contaminated marine mammals being offered for consumption, even by schoolchildren:

At least in that revelation, some local individuals, perhaps recalling the devastation of Minamata, fought against official tolerance of high mercury content.

Did Japanese society learn from Minamata? W. Eugene Smith, the photographer whose images from Minamata could not be entirely suppressed in Japan, nearly died from the beating he received there. The producers of "The Cove" distributed copies of their film to everyone in Taiji, yet the slaughter of dolphins and whales continues in that town.

Did American society learn anything from Minamata? Mercury in food fish is, theoretically, closely monitored. Reducing sources (eg, coal-fired power plants, river runoff) of mercury in the oceanic food chain has, however, not been effective. The ocean remains the world's sewer: Fukushima is yet another assault upon it.

How does a society learn?

Meanwhile back at Hanford,

"The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board has noted previously that some safety concerns didn't appear to be taken seriously by DOE officials and Bechtel National.

But the investigation released Monday is by far the harshest critique yet of the safety culture of one of the most expensive and dangerous projects in the world."

"The board ruled that Hanford's safety culture is so poor that it has 'a substantial probability of jeopardizing' construction and safe operation of the one-of-a-kind plant.

That culture 'is in need of prompt, major improvement,' the agency concluded, and 'corrective actions will only be successful and enduring if championed by the Secretary of Energy,' Steven Chu."

The Columbia still flows to the sea

Uh, um, how 'bout those Giants!

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