Every day they have the blues
Life at the triple meltdown site in Japan continues to muddle along. There hasn't been much news to report of late. The desperate dousing of the three melted reactor cores is still creating way more radioactive water than can ever be accounted for, some of it continues to pour into the ocean and groundwater, and there's still radioactive smoke or steam coming out of the plants as well. This will go on for years, with dozens of aftershocks every week and the constant threat of further disasters. It's profoundly sad.
There's a pretty interesting, if not totally unbiased, presentation of what happened at Fukushima posted here. It's a video that will take almost an hour of your time if you sit through the whole thing. But it's in fairly plain English, and it shows how badly designed nuclear power plants are in general.
On the mass media front, the Fuku stories we've been reading are mostly about closing doors after the horse has left the barn. For example, they just discovered that they let some radioactive beef from the Fukushima province into the market before it was tested, and some people have already eaten it. Mmmmm... cesium. I hate it when instead of telling you how many ounces the steak will be, the restaurant rates it in chest X-ray equivalents.
Meanwhile, local environmental authorities here in the Pacific Northwest have been called out for failing to inform the public that back in March, there was a lot of radioactive iodine in rainfall in our area. According to the nuclear watchdog group Heart of America Northwest --
Radiation levels in rainwater collected in Portland, Oregon on March 25, 2011 were 86.8 pCi/L for Iodine 131 (I131), amongst the highest recorded in the US after Fukushima. Rain in Olympia had even higher levels of radioactive Iodine. The Portland result was not posted by EPA until April 4.
The maximum level of Iodine 131in rain in Olympia, WA was 125 pCi/L on March 24, which was not posted by EPA until April 4.
Highest levels in rainwater in California were collected March 22, 2011 in Richmond, CA with levels of 138 pCi/L.
The Drinking Water Standard is just 3 pCi/L (picoCuries per Liter, which is a very small measurement). Thus, people drinking undiluted rainwater n Portland would have consumed and been exposed to Iodine 131 at levels nearly 30 times the DWS, and 41 times the standard in Olympia....
EPA refuses to make public who is collecting data samples for its RadNet program, preventing independent review of accuracy and raising concern that the choices as to sampling may be biased, and leaving numerous questions such as why some collection stations were only collecting monthly even at the height of the crisis (e.g., Portland).
EPA's announcement that it was returning to "routine" sampling implied that there was across the board increased sampling from mid-March to May3, 2011. However, a review of the posted sampling results show many locations, such as Portland, OR, did not increase precipitation sampling from once a month during the crisis....
Heart of America Northwest's review shows that EPA's claim of "near real-time data" is belied by EPA taking a week to post data. In the event of another explosion releasing radioactive particles and gases, the serious week long gap in time between collection of results and posting could prevent a proper public health advisory and response. By taking a week to post results, the public is deprived of the ability to make its own choices in time to make a difference.
Now the State of Washington is going to start sending up a helicopter with radiation detection equipment on it to fly around the Seattle area collecting data on airborne radioactivity. Four months after the meltdowns, it's about time. But there's a caveat: "The data collected will be part of a report after quality assurance review. The report will be available to the public, though some information may be withheld for national security reasons." No doubt.
And don't get the idea that this is going to be a regular thing. After July 28, when the helicopter has supposedly collected sufficient baseline data, the flights will stop. Who knows what it would take to get a chopper back in action after that? Breathe at your own risk.