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Radiation Exposure and Risk

Ionizing radiation damages living things and contaminates the environment, sometimes permanently. Studies have shown increases in cancer around nuclear facilities and uranium mines. Radiation mutates genes which can cause genetic damage across generations.

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Monday
Mar242014

Fukushima’s Shameful Cleanup

According to a New York Times editorial board opinion piece, "A pattern of shirking responsibility permeates the decommissioning work at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. An increasing proportion of the 3,000 contract laborers at Fukushima are poorly trained, with little technical expertise or knowledge of radiation. They earn about $150 a day, less than what a regular construction job pays. Few are given insurance coverage. Many are destitute, recruited by ruthless labor brokers, some with ties to the mob...

'It was the Japanese government, which had been leading the promotion of nuclear power, that made the Fukushima cleanup Tepco’s responsibility... This arrangement has conveniently allowed the government to avoid taking responsibility for the nuclear cleanup."

The opinion piece concludes that the government of Japan needs to be in charge of the disaster management, the sooner the better. While the NYT editorial board correctly recognizes the incompetence of the current Fukushima "clean-up", independent scientists have stated in a letter to the UN Secretary-General the need for cooperative action of many parties at the international level. Action by just one corporation or one government is clearly failing.

Japan's government also appears to be manipulating investigation into the health impacts of Fukushima radiation, a story reported in the NYT just last week.  Because of its close ties to, and support of, the nuclear industry, and its supposed interference with health studies, the government of Japan is obviously too compromised to handle the ongoing Fukushima disaster alone.

Thursday
Mar202014

Forests Around Chernobyl Aren’t Decaying Properly

Fallen trees in Chernobyl's infamous red forest. (Photo: T.A.Mousseau & A.P. Møller)"Nearly 30 years have passed since the Chernobyl plant exploded and caused an unprecedented nuclear disaster. The effects of that catastrophe, however, are still felt today. Although no people live in the extensive exclusion zones around the epicenter, animals and plants still show signs of radiation poisoning.

Birds around Chernobyl have significantly smaller brains that those living in non-radiation poisoned areas; trees there grow slower; and fewer spiders and insects including bees, butterflies and grasshoppers—live there...

In the areas with no radiation, 70 to 90 percent of the leaves were gone after a year. But in places where more radiation was present, the leaves retained around 60 percent of their original weight..." supporting the idea of delayed decay.

The researchers worry that not only are these nutrients not being properly recycled, causing trees to grow more slowly, but the lack of decomposition is causing the forest litter to pile up and become a fire hazard. Fire can not only destroy the forests further, but can also spread the radioactive contamination now present to other, potentially uncontaminated areas. Smithsonian.com

Animals and plants show impacts of radiation after the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster in the US and the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. The researchers are collaborating with investigators in Japan to determine if improper decay is occurring because of the Fukushima disaster.

Friday
Mar142014

Fukushima Medical University handed out KI tablets to its staff, students, but not to public

In a hugely hypocritical move, Fukushima Medical University (FMU), allowed its staff and students to take potassium iodide tablets in the initial days after the Fukushima nuclear disaster began, but refused to hand them out to members of the public, stating that the radiation doses would not be high enough to warrant such action.

Now, as thyroid cancers and suspected cancers are increasing among children who were possibly exposed to radioactive iodine from the triple meltdown, experts from FMU, particularly Dr. Shunichi Yamashita, are claiming these increases are from increased medical screening for such conditions. Dr. Yamashita is dubbed "Dr. 100 mSv" because he has claimed that anything under this dose is not linked to disease when, in reality, there is no safe dose of radiation according to many experts.

However, FMU's and Dr. Yamashita's tragic decision to withhold KI from the public, while giving it to those associated with the university, could easily be influencing their conclusions regarding the cause of these apparent thyroid cancer increases.

Clearly an independent medical group or institution needs to investigate the causes of thyroid cancer increases, not the institution that could hold some culpability for not preventing them in the first place. Save Children from Radiation

Tuesday
Mar112014

Chomsky: From Hiroshima to Fukushima, Vietnam to Fallujah, State Power Ignores Its Massive Harm

Noam ChomskyAs reported by Democracy Now! on the Pacifica Radio Network:

World-renowned political dissident, linguist, author and MIT Professor Noam Chomsky traveled to Japan last week ahead of the three-year anniversary of the Fukushima crisis. Chomsky, now 85 years old, met with Fukushima survivors, including families who evacuated the area after the meltdown. "[It’s] particularly horrifying that this is happening in Japan with its unique, horrendous experiences with the impact of nuclear explosions, which we don’t have to discuss," Chomsky says. "And it’s particularly horrifying when happening to children — but unfortunately, this is what happens all the time."

Chomsky also addresses the radioactive contamination of Iraq due to the U.S. military's use of depleted uranium weapons, as well as the lingering health impacts from the Vietnam War due to the U.S. military's use of chemical poisons there.

Monday
Mar102014

Scientists: Test West Coast for Fukushima Radiation

As reported by USA Today, calls are growing for the U.S. federal government to test the Pacific Ocean for Fukushima fallout. Varying models predict Fukushima radioactive contamination plumes in the sea will arrive at the West Coast of North America this summer at the latest, or as early as next month.

A report presented last week at a conference of the American Geophysical Union's Ocean Sciences Section showed that some Cesium-134 has already has arrived in Canada, in the Gulf of Alaska area.

Ken Buesseler, a chemical oceanographer based at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, reports that Cesium-134 serves as a fingerprint for Fukushima.

"The models show it will reach north of Seattle first, then move down the coast," Buesseler said.

Although Buesseler is calling for more federal involvement, he's also taking matters into his own hands. He's launched "How Radioactive Is Our Ocean?" The project will use crowd-sourced money and volunteers to collect water samples along the Pacific Coast, to be shipped across the country to be analyzed.

Similarly, Cal State Long Beach marine biologist Steven Manley has launched "Kelp Watch 2014," which will partner with other organizations to monitor kelp all along the West Coast for Fukushima radiation.

Oregon state park rangers take quarterly ocean water samples to test for radioactivity, according to the article. Their program began in April 2012, tied to monitoring for Japanese tsunami debris washing up on shore.

California also monitors ocean radioactivity near the sole remaining operating nuclear power plant in the state, Diablo Canyon.

The article reports Buesseler saying that current models predict that the radiation will be at extremely low levels that won't harm humans or the environment.

However, this does not comport with the affirmations of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS), in multiple reports over decades, that any exposure to ionizing radioactivity, no matter how low the dose, still carries a health risk for cancer. NAS has found that the higher the exposure, the higher the risk of cancer, but there is no threshold below which a radioactive exposure can be called "safe." NAS also has found that these health risks for cancer from ionizinig radioactivity accumulate over a lifetime of exposures.