Update on "Highly Radioactive" Water Leaks at Fukushima
- September 8, 2013
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The media frenzy about the detection of water leaks from the vast tank farm that Tokyo Electric Power Company has been forced to build to store water used to cool the three damaged cores at their Fukushima Daiichi power station continues to sizzle, even in the face of the potential for US attack on Syria. (A more rational solution to building an ever-increasing number of water tanks is to use a tanker to move the treated water a few miles out into the Pacific Ocean for safe disposal.)
The latest media discovery was that the reading that was initially reported as 100 mSv/hour was really 1,800 mSv/hour because the detector that produced the 100 mSv/hour reading had a range that maxed out at 100 mSv/hour. What few, if any, media reports include is an explanation that the measured dose rate is nearly 100% beta radiation and that it was measured at a distance of just 70 micrometers from the radioactive material. Beta radiation can be shielded by a single sheet of paper and will only travel about 1-2 meters in dry air.
Someone needs to help journalists understand that there is no way that a beta-emitting radiation source can cause a deadly dose to a human being unless it is ingested in a concentrated form. Even if it is in direct contact, about the worst it can do is cause a skin burn; I would also not recommend using water contaminated with a beta emitter for eye wash. I suppose I have volunteered for that educational task.
As some of the more informative initial reports stated, the gamma radiation from the leaked water measured 1.5 mSv/hour. That number is still valid; it was well within the accurate measuring range of the instrument used. In one of my previous updates on this topic, I postulated that the measurement was an outlier that might have used an unrepresentative sample of water.
According to an anonymous comment I received this morning that has the ring of truth from someone who knows what he is talking about, that postulate was wrong. Apparently, the concentrated waste water used for core cooling before going through the treatment facility generally has a high beta dose rate when measured at a distance of a 70 micrometers.
After treatment, the concentration of beta emitters that are not tritium gets reduced by a factor of 4,000. (All Beta radiations entry in column 7 versus column 8 in “Nuclide Analysis Results of Water at Water Treatment Facility”.)
Since tritium is an integral part of water — H2O where the H-3 is inseparable from the normal H-1 and H-2 — it makes it through all water treatment. It is the isotope that causes any water used to cool a nuclear reactor to be called “controlled pure water” (CPW). The amount of tritium in this water is not a health concern, especially if diluted into the ocean.
Here is the comment provided by the commenter who self identified as “no name no country”.
The numbers for “leaked water” in TEPCO’s August 19, 2013 document are consistent with the numbers for the water stored in these tanks.
These tanks store waste water after the reverse osmosis treatment (desalination). The treated water goes back into the reactors for cooling, and the waste water is stored in these tanks. Since the water also goes through cesium absorption treatment (by SARRY) before it goes through reverse osmosis, it is low in cesium and other gamma nuclides.
The beta radiation from this water is about 2,000 mSv/hr at 70 micrometer dose equivalent.
The “leaked water” in August 19 document is this waste water itself. Measurements in August 23 documents are about water in the drains nearby, diluted with running water there.
For your info, the most recent nuclide analysis by TEPCO of water at various stages of treatment. The concentrated, post-RO waste water inside these tanks are No.8:
That this water is somehow leaking is a fact, but to say that this water is uncontrollably leaking into the Pacific Ocean is, as you say, worst fear-mongering. There is no evidence so far that this water is even reaching the ocean.
What is worse is this global frenzy on “1,800 (or 2,200) mSv/hr radiation that kill people in 4 hours” detected at Fukushima. It is not just people like Chris Busby but all mainstream media (including NYTimes, BBC, etc) and many alternative media who thrive on wrong information and fear repeat this completely erroneous information.
From the beginning, TEPCO has said this is dose equivalent at 70 micrometer to show the effect on skin and eye lens – i.e. beta radiation, not gamma. It is completely consistent with the radiation measurement of this waste water, whose leaks happened before (no one paid any attention to those). But the media, through amazing ignorance after more than 2 years or willful ignorance to get eyeballs, has glossed over this important detail.
Japanese people who fear radiation are shell-shocked, and people outside Japan who do not have access to the primary information (in this case, information provided by TEPCO in Japanese) fear (some cheer) the end of the world or something catastrophic as such. I am thoroughly disgusted with this, and frankly I don’t know what to do to educate people. I’m at the point of giving up.
Needless to say, I responded to this comment. After putting in the effort to compose that response, I figured I would use it as part of today’s post.
@No name no country
Don’t give up. Get mad and engage your questioning attitude. Do you really believe that “the media” makes much money by inflating this particular story to attract eyeballs as opposed to any one of dozens of other ways to get the attention of viewers and readers. Heck, we are at the edge of a new war; surely people would tune in for more updates on that topic.
If the media does not have a very strong direct motive in terms of gaining viewer/reader attention for spreading this particular story, it is time to look for people, organizations and perhaps even countries with stronger motives.
As John Tucker pointed out in an earlier comment (http://atomicinsights.com/update-fukushima-water-leaks-unrepresentative-...) RT — aka Russia Today — has been particularly creative in making up additional fear mongering stories and inviting people like Chris Busby to spin tales that increase the shell-shocked attitude of the Japanese people. Russia has been hugely dependent on exporting oil and gas for a major portion of its national income for many years; it is making billions more every year that Japan keeps its functional nuclear plants shut down.
There are plenty of other actors with influence in the media that are engaged in the business of finding, extracting, processing, financing, and transporting oil and natural gas that are also benefiting hugely from the fear that people have about harmless “leaks” of “radioactive” water at Fukushima.
Aside: I used quotes around radioactive not because I believe it is NOT radioactive, but because fear stories never put the word into any context or tell anyone any useful information about how radioactive the water is. Without any quantification, it would not be a lie to say that ALL sea water is “radioactive”. End Aside.
Teaching the public to fear “leaks” of water containing minuscule quantities of radioactive material (measured in grams) also distracts them from the enormous DUMPS called smokestacks that push many billions of tons of combustion waste products — some of which are carcinogenic or toxic in concentrated form — into our shared atmosphere.
Some worry that we are doomed to fail when I point out that the real opposition to the vastly increased use of nuclear energy instead of fossil fuel wherever it makes sense is the global fossil fuel industry and its courtiers. It is an extremely wealthy, savvy and politically powerful foe. However, I like to remind people that there are far more energy consumers in the world than energy producers; many of them are also rich and powerful. Few fossil fuel consumers bear any love for Big Oil. Its booms and busts have had a large negative effect on their ability to prosper and live secure, comfortable lives.
I came of age during the 1970s. Because I like to use gasoline powered machines (cars, boats, planes, etc) Big Oil became one of my lifelong foes during the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo. I turned 14 during the period when my dad had to get up at “oh dark thirty” in order to get in line to fill up his gas tank so he could commute to his job 40 miles from our suburban home.
I hated the thought that I would get my driver’s license at a time when everyone was worried that the price of oil and its availability would continue to be a major issue. It is hard to explain how depressing that thought was to a guy who had dearly loved the experience of being able to freely travel a great country like the United States in large, comfortable station wagons and campers.
As a career officer in the US Navy who attended the Navy War College’s course of for national strategy and policy, I spent a lot of time learning the vital nature of reliable petroleum supplies and the way that single group of products has influenced our history as a nation — including numerous wars and lesser conflicts, some of which resulted in millions of casualties.
When I announced to my colleagues that I was resigning my commission in the US Navy in 1993 to found Adams Atomic Engines, Inc. to design and build small, simple, economical nuclear-heated gas turbines, one colleague make a prescient comment. He said, “Good luck Rod, but the oil companies will never let you succeed.”
I’ve spent the last 20 years figuring out how to make a liar out of him. It has been quite a struggle, but I think I am getting closer to a successful strategy.
I hope you agree that it is time to fight FUD with information and to fight concentrated power and wealth with the distributed power and wealth of information-enabled, free-thinking people who have nothing to fear.
On a separate topic, I am looking forward to the House Oversight Committee hearing that is scheduled for September 10. It will be interesting to find out how the NRC is going to respond to the mandamus ruling directing them to finish their evaluation of the DOE’s Yucca Mountain licensing evaluation.
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