Japan in the Fog of Crisis

This morning from the Houston Chronicle…

FUKUSHIMA, Japan — An unexpected spike in pressure inside a troubled reactor set back efforts to bring Japan’s overheating, leaking nuclear complex under control Sunday as concerns grew that so far minor contamination of food and water is spreading.

The pressure increase raised the possibility that plant operators may need to deliberately release radioactive gas, erasing some progress in a nuclear crisis as the government continued its halting response to a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami that savaged northeast Japan on March 11.

A teenage boy’s cries for help led police to rescue an 80-year-old woman from a wrecked house in a rare rescue after so many days.

Beyond the disaster area, an already shaken public grew uneasy with official reports that traces of radiation first detected in spinach and milk from farms near the nuclear plant are turning up farther away in tap water, rain and even dust. In all cases, the government said the radiation levels were too small to pose an immediate risk to health. Still, Taiwan seized a batch of fava beans from Japan found with faint — and legal amounts — of iodine and cesium.

“I’m worried, really worried,” said Mayumi Mizutani, a 58-year-old Tokyo resident shopping for bottled water at a neighborhood supermarket to give her visiting 2-year-old grandchild. “We’re afraid because it’s possible our grandchild could get cancer.” Forecasts for rain, she said, were an added worry.

Reports yesterday on the radio said that power was restored to the cooling system of one of the plants via a mile-long cable. For now, it’s going to be a fog of crisis until the radioactive fuel rods are cooled and secured.

The real truth will come out if we have thoughtful and detailed investigative reporting after the fact.

Assurances that there is ‘no immediate health risk’ don’t address the obvious concern about long-term health risks.

I hope for better news today. The people of Japan have suffered so much at the hands of nature, they don’t deserve to suffer more from human folly.

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One response

  1. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/d0c15388-53ca-11e0-a01c-00144feab49a.html#axzz1HGROuDus

    Here’s the lowdown on the food:

    It’s been measured to be emitting 15,000 Bq, and from isotopes with week-long half-lives. That’s more than normal, but Bqs are literally the smallest measure of radioactivity measurable (each Bq is a single atom decaying). For reference, the potassium in your body right now emits 4,000 Bq to you every second.

    That’s also 15KBq from 2.2 pounds of spinach… Translated to more human terms… You’d have to eat thirty pounds of spinach in ten days to get the equivalent dose of a mammogram.

    That’s not a Good Thing, nobody wants food to have levels that high, but you keep worrying about long-term effects for isotopes that have short half-lives. This spinach will likely be as safe as ‘regular’ by the time it hits shelves (not that it will hit shelves, of course).

    Like I said, as long as they can keep the actual fuel from catching on fire, everything outside the reactor site itself will be fine.

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