The three meltdowns have spewed trillions of becquerels of highly radioactive iodine-131, cesium-137, strontium-90 and plutonium-239 into the atmosphere and Pacific since day one of the disaster. The initial explosions and fires sent untold amounts of radiation high into the atmosphere.
A February 28 report by the Meteorological Research Institute, just released at a scientific symposium in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, says that 40,000 trillion becquerels, double the amount previously thought, has escaped Unit 1 reactor alone.
This has resulted in fallout around the globe and especially impacting parts of America and Canada, two countries downwind of Japan on the jet stream. British Columbia, Pacific Northwest, Midwest and Ontario have been hit especially hard by rain, sleet and snow, in some cases with dizzying amounts of high radiation.
Radioactive fallout in St. Louis rainfall, which has been monitored at Potrblog.com since the crisis began, has been repeatedly so hot that levels have been reached that make it unsafe for children and pregnant women. An October 17, 2011 St. Louis rain storm was measured on video at 2.76 millirem per hour or over 270 times background.
The U.S. EPA considers anything 3 times background to be significantly above background. The California Highway Patrol deems any material over 3 times background as a potential hazardous materials situation. The St. Louis rain was 90 times CHP’s hazmat trigger.
Compounding the airborne fallout from the destroyed reactors, the Japanese government has embarked on a program of incinerating 5 million tons of radioactive debris trucked into Tokyo from the devastated prefectures.
“Burning does not eliminate radioactive waste, but it reduces its volume by ashing the original materiel” according to the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research. “Incineration does not destroy metals or reduce radioactivity of wastes. Radioactive waste incinerators, when equipped with well-maintained, high efficiency filters, can capture all but a small fraction of the radioactive isotopes and metals fed into them. The fraction that does escape, however, tends to be in the form of small particles that are more readily absorbed by living organisms than larger particles.”
The incinerating, begun last October, will last until March 2014 with radioactive burning conducted all over the capital city of Tokyo which is home to over 13 million people. This will re-suspend some of the radiation that has already fallen out.
The incinerated and compacted radioactive ash will be dumped into Tokyo Bay where, Japanese officials say, it will be perfectly safe.
The main wave of water-borne radiation from the meltdowns, including highly mobile uranium-60 buckyballs, is surging across the Pacific along the Kuroshio Current. Sometimes called the Japan Current, it is known for its strong and fast flow clockwise around the Pacific second only in power to the Gulf Stream on the planet.
Millions of tons of seawater and fresh water have been used to cool the melted cores and spent fuel rods generating millions of tons of irradiated water. The Kuroshio Current is transporting a significant amount of this escaping radiation from Fukushima Daiichi across the Pacific towards the West Coast.
The 70 mile wide current joins the North Pacific Current moving eastward until it splits and flows southward along the California Current.
The American government has done nothing to monitor the Pacific Ocean for over half a year even though a Texas-sized sea of Japanese earthquake debris is already washing up on outlier Alaskan islands.
“In terms of the radiation, EPA is in charge of the radiation network for airborne radiation; it’s called RadNet,” EPA Region 9 Administrator Jared Blumenfeld told EnviroReporter.com during a news conference about new ship sewage regulations February 9. “And we have a very significant and comprehensive array of RadNet monitors along the, actually along the coast, but on land. We don’t have jurisdiction for looking at marine radiation. Perhaps NOAA would be able to answer that question but we don’t have data or monitor it.”
NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, suspended testing the Pacific for Fukushima radiation last summer after concluding that there wasn’t any radiation to be detected.
“As far as questions about radiation, we are working with radiation experts within the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy,” NOAA media liaison Keeley Belva wrote in a February 10 email. “Here are some contacts information for those agencies at the headquarters level.”
“NOAA is not currently doing further research on seafood,” Belva said adding “NOAA is doing a study related to radiation that is focused on radiation plume modeling.”
The lack of testing disappoints Dan Hirsch U.C. Santa Cruz nuclear policy lecturer and president of Committee to Bridge the Gap which exposed the Rocketdyne partial meltdowns above the western San Fernando Valley in 1979 and continues to lead the fight to clean up Rocketdyne today.
“EPA did some special monitoring for a few weeks after the accident began, then shut down the special monitoring” Hirsch told EnviroReporter.com. “What monitoring was done was very troubled. Half of the stationary air monitors were broken at the time of the accident. Deployable monitors were ordered not deployed.”
Even when the government testing did work, increasingly high levels of radiation seemed to have been ignored.
EnviroReporter.com has learned that the California Department of Public Health halted monitoring of Fukushima fallout when its Radiologic Health Branch issued its last report October 10, 2011.
That report shows an alarming rise in cesium-137 in CalPoly dairy farm milk from June 14, 2011 when it tested 2.95 picocuries per liter (pCi/l) and steadily rising in four subsequent tests until it was 5.91 pCi/l. The hot milk was twice allowable amount of this radionuclide in drinking water according to the EPA’s 3.0 pCi/l limit.
Then the testing stopped for no other reason that the government concluded nothing from Fukushima had sufficiently contaminated anything to be of concern. Even detections of radioactive sulphur-35 in San Diego and plutonium-239 in Riverside did nothing to pique the interest of regulators.
“The lesson to be learned is that both the U.S. and Japan suffer from very lax regulation, a too-cozy relationship between nuclear regulators and the industry they are to regulate,” Hirsch said. “This can lead to dangerous outcomes.”
This was not unanticipated. Yet the need for immediate information was undeniable.
Live streaming radiation readings from Santa Monica began four days after the meltdowns. Since then, this reporter has conducted over 1,500 tests in four states and miles about the Earth where jet radiation registered over 5 times normal even accounting for altitude.
Special tests revealed elevated radiation in Bryce Canyon and Grand Canyon rain. Southwest Michigan rain samples were hot.
Japanese sake, beer, vegetable juice, seaweed, pastries and tea all registered significant ionization above background. Powdered milk, turkey hot dogs, and jet travel breathing masks were all part of the specific media tested many of which were recorded in these videotaped radiation detections.
Establishing a large and comprehensive data set of interior and exterior backgrounds was and is crucial. Accuracy in readings, however, can be compromised especially in precipitation because of ‘radon progeny’ which are isotopes that are created by the decay of radon gas.
If detected but not accounted for, could give a false positive radiation reading. Some scientists have questioned whether the high readings this reporter has recorded were actually the result of radon progeny.
Dr. Mark Bandstra is one of them. A member of the U.C. Berkeley Radiological Air and Water Monitoring Team in the Nuclear Engineering Department, Bandstra has declared that detecting Fukushima radiation here as “impossible” despite evidence to the contrary produced by his own department. That hasn’t prevented him from dismissing radiation finds.