On March 1st, the Thom Hartmann Show hosted Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps to discuss a Common Dreams article reporting that estimates of how much hazardous radioactive Cesium has escaped the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex have doubled -- again. This is the third major doubling of estimates since the catastrophe began. (Kevin's interview is from minute 30:30 to minute 38:20).
Thom also asked Kevin what a becquerel is, to give some understanding and perspective on the "mind-boggling" estimate that 40,000 trillion (or 40 quadrillion) becquerels of radioactive Cesium have escaped into the environment from Fukushima Daiichi. A becquerel is a unit of measurement of radioactivity, equal to one disintegration per second. A becquerel is the SI (International System of Units) derived unit used to measure the rate of radioactive decay. When the nucleus of an atom emits nucleons (protons and/or neutrons) and is thereby transformed into a different nucleus, decay has occurred. A decay rate of one becquerel for a given quantity means there is one such atomic transformation per second. The unit of measurement is named after Antoine Henri Becquerel (1852-1908), the French physicist who discovered the photographic action of the rays spontaneously emitted by uranium salts, and so instigated the study of radioactivity. His work led to the discovery of radium by Marie and Pierre Curie, with whom he shared the 1903 Nobel Prize for physics. As Kevin said during the interview, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences has affirmed for decades that any exposure to radioactivity, no matter how small, carries a health risk of cancer. Thus, 40 quadrillion becquerels of radioactivity represent that many rolls of the dice, or rounds of radioactive Russian roulette, for people and other living things living downwind, downstream, and up the food chain.