Sunday, March 27 – Another Day, Another Radiation Spike: Workers Evacuated from Part of Plant

March 27, 2011

When your geiger counter needle nails to the top of the scale, it’s time to pull back.

NYTimes reports:

The concerns began when a worker attempting to measure radiation levels of the water puddles there saw the reading on his dosimeter jump beyond 1,000 millisieverts, the highest reading. The worker left the scene immediately, said Takeo Iwamoto, a spokesman for the Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the Fukushima plant.

Michiaki Furukawa, a nuclear chemist and board member of the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, a Tokyo-based watchdog group, said exposure to 1,000 millisieverts an hour of radiation would induce nausea and vomiting, while levels between 3,000 to 5,000 millisieverts an hour could be lethal.

Such high amounts of radiation would clearly make continued recovery work near the reactor very difficult and could hobble attempts to bring the nuclear crisis under control. Tetsuo Iguchi, a professor in the department of quantum engineering at Nagoya University, said that at the sharply elevated levels of radiation, workers would be able to remain on site for only about 15 minutes before health considerations required them to leave.

The Japanese government’s top spokesman, Yukio Edano, told an afternoon press briefing Sunday that it appeared the radioactive puddles had developed when the No. 2 unit’s fuel rods were exposed to air, but that “we don’t at this time believe they are melting. We’re confident that we are able to keep them cool.”

Voice of America – “Confusion reigned”:

Confusion reigned Sunday at a crippled nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan, as emergency workers were pulled from a reactor building after dangerously high levels of radiation were detected in water that had accumulated in a turbine housing unit.

A spokesman for the operator of the Fukushima-Daiichi power plant originally told reporters that radiation had spiked 10 million times the normal levels Sunday, driving workers to flee the facility.  Authorities later said those radiation readings were not accurate and that new tests had been ordered.

Officials say they also detected heightened levels of radioactive iodine in Pacific Ocean water within 300 meters of the plant.  The nuclear safety agency said one-half a liter of the water contains the same amount of radiation that a person can safely be exposed to in a year.

However, officials at the agency said the ocean will quickly dilute the worst contamination, and that there is no immediate threat to marine life or seafood safety.

Contaminated seawater is the latest indication that radiation from the plant is spreading.  Heightened levels of radioactive substances also have been found this past week in the water supply in Tokyo and nearby areas.  Radiation has been found in vegetables and milk from farms near Fukushima, prompting several countries to ban imports of food from the region.

The Seafood issue remains underreported, as Japan’s reliance on seafood makes radiation in the ocean foodchain a critical issue for the country, yet most reports simply parrot the official line that most radiation from the plant is going “away”, out to see. The Times made brief mention of the problem with bio-accumulating nuclides today:

The elevated levels of radiation at and around the Fukushima plant will require careful monitoring of seafood in Japan, said Kimberlee J. Kearfott, a professor of nuclear engineering and radiological sciences at the University of Michigan.

“It is extremely important that seafood be carefully monitored,” she said in an e-mail. “This is because many of the radionuclides are concentrated in the environment,” she added. “For example, iodines are concentrated in kelp (a Japanese food, seaweed) and shrimp.

“Iodines, cesium and strontium are concentrated in other types of seafood,” she continued. “Fish can act like tea or coffee presses. When you push down the plungers, the grounds all end up on one side. In this case, that is the fish.”

Wiki  defines bio-accumulation:

Bioaccumulation refers to the accumulation of substances, such as pesticides, or other organic chemicals in an organism. [1] Bioaccumulation occurs when an organism absorbs a toxic substance at a rate greater than that at which the substance is lost. Thus, the longer the biological half-life of the substance the greater the risk of chronic poisoning, even if environmental levels of the toxin are not very high.[2]





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