After getting the nth explanation of how I was scaremongering and that Fukushima was well under control and there was no reason to worry and the people will soon be returning to the exclusion zone, I don’t know whether to weep with pity for the ignorance our government and media have reduced people to, or be angry for ignoring obvious facts.
Choosing to do neither. Look at the information below. Decide what you like. It isn’t like Japan will listen to you and direct actions… or me.
The levels of radioactivity at reactors 2 and 3 have gone too high to allow workers to work there, and future work will have to be carried out by robots. This is not a mindless attention seeker like me talking. This is TEPCO’s statement to the press on camera.
To the uninitiated, you have to understand that this is an ongoing leak of radiation that has suddenly *spiked*. In other words, “contained” isn’t even a distant relative yet. In still more words, for the radioactivity to decrease, it has to stop being released first.
Or how about this? This is perfectly excellent milk being discarded? Try radioactive milk. You don’t want to have your beauty bath in this. And if you do…? Fukushima has tons of supply going waste. You seriously think farmers throw away all their milk because of scare mongering?
Radioactive milk being discarded at Iigate
On the other hand, instead of me being a scare mongerer, you may want to consider that you’re blindly swallowing propaganda pills that “make it all go away”. Very fuzzy pink of you. If this was unintentional, here is the antidote.
Most of the time, the government lacks the resources to monitor radiation in all the foodstuff, and people are eating a lot of contaminated food slipping through the cracks. This includes school children.
While you are at it, look carefully at time 1:42. While this lawyer is describing a concerning situation with forcing children to drink contaminated milk, and children who refuse being treated like traitors, Osamu Fujimura (Chief Cabinet Secretary) on the left, and Yukio Edano (Economy, Trade and Industry Minister) are laughing. What was it you were saying? That the responsible actions of the Japanese Government successfully prevented disaster?
Here’s a look at the scene with tested food stuff. Remember, this is outside the exclusion zone you are eager to send people back to. PBS is making some excellent documentaries these days.
A radiation fallout forecast also shows minor quantities coming our way.
This is what is happening in Fukushima
Though of course, this is not a problem, since we don’t measure, so if there is no data, then there is no contamination, right? That is how our minds work.
So, I leave you with this thought for people who should have been protected by international regulation from a nuclear plant in their armpit. More than one million people live within 30km of Koodankulam. This is not a location Atomic Energy Regulatory Board approves of. There should be less people, or the plant should be elsewhere. But that doesn’t matter to out government, long given to self-delusion. They see no reason why they can’t simply misinform people and get results they want. But many people know why.
PS: When someone can send you nice videos to watch at the drop of a hat – new ones each time, at least I am not ignorant, no?
Most people really have little clue about what they can do in case of a nuclear accident. Research and surveys conducted in Japan after the Fukushima meltdowns revealed that many people didn't really know what they could do, and exposure to radiation among citizens could have been significantly lower if they knew what was safe, what wasn't and what they could do to protect themselves better.
The widespread disinformation about radiation being harmless to certain kinds of people or in certain conditions, raised safety limits and such don't help matters either.
Similar stories come out of Chernobyl.
I think such information should be widely distributed in all countries that use nuclear power or weapons, so that in the even of an emergency, the human damage may be as minimal as possible.
So here is what I have found out. Most of this information is from information shared by various people who went through these measures or official instructions. It you have something to add, please comment.
If a release of radiation is possible/expected, but has not happened yet. (The reactors at Fukushima, for example failed after the earthquake, but it was a while before radiation spread).
Charge your phones, laptops and anything that needs charging - priority communication devices.
Switch on the TV/internet and follow any news and instructions that may be given.
Store drinking water in bottles, utensils and other air tight containers.
If there is time, buy food that will last long - in sealed packets.
Procure iodine tablets if available, but don't take them unless radiation is confirmed and instructed.
Bring children, pets indoors.
Secure an area with minimum possibility of radiation and dust entering. Basements are good if you have access to one - the ground around is a good shield, or at least shut and seal closed windows, etc. Choose a room that doesn't face large open spaces if possible.
If there is a burst of radiation expected, try to add "shielding" to outer walls, doors, windows, etc. Moving a cupboard in front of a glass window, taping several layers of newspapers, fixing thick quilt, etc for example. Lead, concrete and steel are very good, but anything will work if sufficiently thick.
Set air-conditioning to recycled air.
The idea is to put barriers to penetrating gamma radiation and prevent dust from entering the living area. Here is a list of the effectiveness of some barriers from Wikipedia
Halving Thickness, inches
Halving Thickness, cm
Halving Mass, g/cm²
lumber or other wood
As you see, different materials shield from radiation to different extents. Using enough thickness of anything will eventually shield. Try and line the outer walls with as much protective material as possible.
After a release of radiation:
Follow all the above steps as far as possible without risking contamination.
Wear mask to cover nose and mouth to prevent inhaling radioactive particles. This is the greatest danger in a radioactive environment (even greater than ingestion - dust masks have been observed to reduce this risk to near negligible levels.
Confirm if your area is contaminated. If you are in a contaminated area and it is possible to evacuate, do so. (suggestions below)
Avoid going out, unless it is to evacuate. As far as possible decrease time spent exposed to radiation.
Do not handle contaminated (or suspected contaminated) objects with bare hands as far as possible. Ideally, use uncontaminated instruments to add distance. Tongs, dustpan and stick... whatever.
If you have been out, have a thorough bath, bathe pets with you to prevent re-contamination.
Bag and place used clothes outside the house.
Use food and water sparingly. Avoid using tap water till it is confirmed free of contamination.
Follow guidance on news media and rescue workers with regard to safety. When following instructions, remember that the instructions from nearest your location overrule others in case of contradictions or differences in guidance say - in national media and local rescue workers.
Wear your face mask at all times.
Wear full sleeved clothing, shoes and rubber (or other) gloves as far as possible.
Pack essentials - money, papers, medications, portable valuables and clean food, water and clothing.
If you have your own vehicle, use it with windows closed, air-conditioner recycling air.
Avoid exertion that requires you to breathe harder.
Avoid touching any objects in the open as far as possible. If necessary, use a tool to keep distance or use a clean barrier you can discard.
On reaching safe location, follow all decontamination instructions carefully.
As you can see in all these instructions, the idea is to minimize exposure to radiation and radioactive particles through minimizing contact and exposure. So you can use common sense and improvise to ensure this when in doubt.
Here is to hoping we never need to use this information. At the same time, like most people never face a fire or dangerous earthquake, but learn what to do as a part of preparedness, I think information on radiation safety should also be widely circulated.
Physicist Michio Kaku said in a video "If you have been exposed to Cesium 137 because you are an atomic worker, even after you are dead and buried your graveside will be radioactive. Your great grandkids can come with Geiger counters and see that great granddaddy still has radiation at his graveside"
It is a very big thought to compute. For a person dead and buried for years to still be radioactive. That also happens to be the reality of radiation. Today, every person in their thirties has been alive for two grade 7 nuclear disasters in our world. Considering that both have resulted in massive radiation and exclusion zones, it is easy to see how big a phenomenon nuclear contamination is.
But apart from these, there are hundreds smaller accidents that have happened. Fuel leaks, partial meltdowns, other contamination. Nuclear testing has deposited some nuclear contamination worldwide. Add to it nuclear contamination hidden by governments for economic or political reasons, like our Baloch friend describes in his interview. Our world is radioactive. The only difference between us and the nuclear exclusion zone is that our exposure is within what is called acceptable levels.
I can't help but wonder at the number of "radioactive people" we have. People who may be outside exclusion Zones, but their gravesides will still be radioactive.
Much has been written about prevention, treatment and harms of radiation. I think it is time for medicine to explore how people live with radiation along with how they die. Adapt better to it. A principle of Appreciative Inquiry is that we find what we seek and we can create positive change by seeking what we wish to see happening and enhancing it.
To me, it makes sense that along with learning how to "prevent and fix damage" of radiation, the time has come that we study what makes some people live long and healthy lives in spite of being exposed to radiation. Are there factors that can be duplicated to bring hope to others similarly contaminated?
Much information on increasing incidence of cancers and such. And I definitely don't deny it. Radiation must be avoided. Exposure to radiation must be avoided and treated as far as possible. Yet, we don't have enough resources to do it at times, it seems.
Not even half of those displaced by Chernobyl are properly rehabilitated yet. The ones from Fukushima are still in a limbo till more is known of their fate. Researchers state that 0.2% of all aid is targetted at the elderly. Yet, we have people who refused to leave and Samosely who moved into abandoned homes - living lonely, but largely healthy lives within exclusion zones. Eating contaminated food, drinking contaminated water, rearing contaminated livestock.
Many say that the Samosely fake health so that they aren't forced to leave exclusion zones. Yet, it is quite difficult to fake being alive if you aren't. It is quite difficult to live alone in your 80s unless you are reasonably healthy. Farming own food, working to sustain livestock... And they are invariably old. And many among them have died. That is more health than what many elderly people in cities have.
Then, there are the Baloch, who claim that Pakistan's nuclear testing in the Chagai region, that turned Raskoh mountain black released radiation that is killing the Baloch population and causing inexplicable defects. The truth of this is very difficult to ascertain considering that Pakistan doesn't allow independent media into Balochistan, but the photos and information these people have put up on the net is compelling and rather difficult to explain without the white elephant of nuclear testing in the room. Yet there certainly are enough Baloch to fight an enduring war against the Pakistani state. They grew up in this environment and they seem to be fine in a physical sense, if not politically, nationally or in human rights.
Other studies describe mixed opinions on the wildlife in the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Some say it thrives without human interference, others say the diversity is decreasing and worrisome mutations are happening. Dotted among these are stories of natural adaptation. Mice that had left the region after the humans left seem to be back and better able to deal with radiation. Species develop mutations, but there are also animals thriving.
In the Emmy Award winning NOVA - Inside Chernobyl's Sarcophagus, scientists who have worked at Chernobyl for a long time are giving interviews in their old age. They speak of colleagues dead from heart failure but not Acute Radiation Sickness. Whatever precautions they took seemed to have protected them from coming to unimaginable harm working as they were directly at ground zero.
Yet, the common factor is also neglect. Whether it is the Baloch, the Liquidators, the scientists, the people of Pripiyat who lived in deadly doses of radiation for days before being evacuated, the people of Fukushima who claim they aren't provided enough information to protect themselves, the workers in Fukushima who didn't have personal dossimeters for the initial months of the crisis... the common thread running through is that they are left largely to their own devices. The resulting guesses born of need for information and lack of it are dismissed for being ignorant.
We may not have cures for Radiation exposure, but we do have cures for malnutrition, lack of safety gear, prompt information, for heart problems, for adequate testing and prompt prevention, and many problems plaguing these people.
Research into centenarians has been conducted to study longevity. Is it possible to study longevity among people exposed to radiation? There is an astonishing pool of neglected people who could serve to create answers.
A person had commented on some site, that these people seem to live in defiance if what we know as science, but it is possible that while they get a lot of radiation, the otherwise clean air and lack of other pollutants allows their bodies to compensate and remain healthy. While this may not be true, an interview of one such person describes the alternative accommodation provided by the Ukranian government as damp and emotionally unsatisfying, sharing a home with strangers. This accommodation was still difficult to get... Possibly a contaminated person wouldn't thrive like that, but might in an area of less radiation, but otherwise healthy life? We don't know. But we ought to find out. Research guides wise choices. Otherwise it is only paranoia - however scientific sounding.
Health is not a singular, linear thing. Also, if we are surrounded by loads of ambient radiation, and we have exposures we deem safe, is it a matter of degree rather than absolutes? And if so, is there a way to research how we can enhance our tolerance so that we are less susceptible to increases in radiation? Is there a way for more people exposed to radiation live functionally fit like the Samosely?
I think that these people have something that could be studied for the benefit of mankind. They ought to be supported better for this information they could provide us and possibly create better lives for others who have been exposed to large amounts of radiation, which currently includes populations of at least two cities and hundreds of villages already. It is not a small number.
As long as nuclear power continues to be used, we can't count on these numbers reducing. We can't even count on knowledge prevailing over political priorities or economic cutting of corners or plain indifference to potential consequences.
Now there are farmers in Fukushima who are unwilling to leave. As long as we continue to use nuclear power for electricity, as long as we fight wars, the possibility of exposure of people to radiation can never be ruled out, and it is too late to begin research after a disaster.
Recently, a researcher said that the radiation exposure after Fukushima could have been drastically less if people had used masks in the days immediately after the accident. Simple pollen masks eliminated almost all the inhaled cesium and two thirds of ingested iodine. The only thing is that it was published nine months after the accident.
Is there a way to create a cohesive system of guidance aiming at maximum functionality and effective practices that will lead to it? I am talking of a world standard that governments can simply duplicate across their countries for effective responses and better management of survivors. IAEA, are you listening?
Disclaimer: I am not recommending keeping people exposed to radiation, but using people living with radiation already to learn how they live long anyway.
Disclaimer2: I am aware that popular view holds anything less than outright condemnation and paranoia of radiation as inadequate. That doesn't bother me, obviously.