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Monday, April 04, 2011

Very Briefly

BoJ released Tankan numbers in a two-phase deal to show what happened after the quake. Still it doesn't clarify much. What's going to make the difference will be how quickly power/transport can be restored and to what levels. Businesses will mostly be uncertain until they know.

Some very nice reporting at Atomic Power Review on the technical side of the Daiichi nuclear plant problems. I was very relieved to see that the Japanese have finally conceded the obvious and decided to dump the mildly contaminated water in the ocean so that they can proceed more quickly with pumping the highly radioactive water into storage. They are also now talking about more realistic time frames.

For those in the USA who are still freaking about radiation, I prescribe the excellent Berkeley monitoring page. It's the Japanese who need to worry about exposures, not us. From modeling, it appears that this site has received peak US fallout. One exceptionally nice feature of this is that the good techies have helpfully provided some scaling:
For example, in the rain water we collected in 18 hours between March 17 and March 18 we observe an activity of the isotope of I-131 (Iodine-131) of 4.26 Bq/l. At this level, you would need to drink 632 liters of this rain water to obtain the same radiation effects you obtain on a round-trip flight between San Francisco and Washington D.C. Therefore, the increase in radiation levels in the rain water due to the events in Japan remain extremely small.
They have also distilled rainwater so they can detect smaller quantities of radioisotopes with confidence:


come on. rainwater can easily get into the food and milk supply. ingesting these particles is different than being transiently exposed externally to ambient radiation in a plane flight.
It is, but look at the concentrations. Iodine is particularly threatening, but the total rainwater count found is not what you get in drinking water or milk or plants.

That's why the Berkeley page is good - they've got data on different sources.

Seriously, it is crazy to worry about these concentrations.
Marc - and I mean it. The level of angst involved about US exposures is scientifically akin to worrying about someone putting the evil eye on you.

Any rational person would look the dosages used for diagnostic iodine administration and figure the risks from there.

Try it, you'll like it.

1 Gray=1 Sievert.
History Quiz:

Q: What do George W. Bush and Barack Obama have in common besides having lived at the same address in Washington?

A: They both bombed a middle eastern country and decided to try terrorists in military tribunals. Certainly, the media and liberal outrage will arrive any moment now. Please let me know when Danny Glover is spotted outside the White House protesting these atrocities.
I had to put a mailing list on hold because they were saying that San Franscisco rainwater had 181 times the allowable radioactive iodine. I thought "if it's really that high, the people in Toyko are screwed." It's not as if someone could hush up all the readings, after all. I just don't understand why people want to scare themselves needlessly. It could still get very ugly at those power plants. What will they find to say then?
"Allowable" <> "biologically significant".

Our EPA is quite stringent about allowable contamination levels in plant effluent. That makes sense for ongoing operations, to the extent that the contamination is cumulative. But 181 times something close to zero is still something close to zero. That seems to be lost on journalists.
Neil - I gathered from some EPA background that they were using a life-time exposure yardstick. That certainly does make sense for ongoing standards.

But of course, a temporary higher exposure doesn't mean anything bad for your health unless it is really high; it's the difference between eating very "well" for a week over the holidays versus eating that way for a lifetime.

Teri - the EPA does not set standards for rainwater, but for drinking water. And so far, no drinking water standard has been exceeded.

Rainwater is of course greatly diluted when it hits the ground or falls into a stream. I like the Berkeley link because they are concentrating the rainwater so you can really see what's out there.

However rainwater concentrations are a side issue, and the amounts reported wouldn't actually be dangerous even if you drank it.

I wonder if people have already forgotten how many nuclear bomb tests we did in our own country? There's an absurd lack of ability to scale here.

(Note: I am most certainly not in favor of nuking our country or any other. Still, we survived, and I find my third eye quite useful in low light conditions.)
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