10 April 2011
Update #6 on the Japanese Atomic Reactor Accident at Fukushima.
1. Over the last week, no significant increases in radiation have been detected in the atmosphere or snow-rain samples as measured at the OBRL facility near to Ashland, Oregon. At present there are no elevated readings to be observed at our location. Real-time monitoring of background radiation levels continues, recorded to computer so as to review trends, showing an approximate 20 cpm, with isolated transients between 5 to 40 cpm. This is well within normal ranges.
2. Snow-melt and rainwater samples are now routinely being tested with both NaI scintillation and GM detectors, inside a lead shield. On one occasion, an anomalous set of readings were recorded that probably were the consequence of Fukushima radiation. As noted in the prior Update #3, on the 19th of March, snow-melt was measured from the previous day’s precipitation using a precision Ludlum 2200 Ratemeter/Scaler with 2" mica end-window GM probe. The readings over that snow-melt sample were at 66 cpm, approximately doubled from the background of 32 cpm. This amount of radiation was of concern, though still very "low level", and also very temporary in occurrence. It was associated with a strong oranur reaction locally, as felt by several persons. However, both the high GM count and the oranur reaction dissipated away within an hour or two after the initial measurements. At first it was considered this was the consequence of some short-lived isotopes, but now we feel it might have been an effect of accumulated radon daughters dissolved in the water, which when it warmed, out-gassed and so was more readily detected at that exact moment, but not later when diffused in the open air. Once the water reaches a stable temperature, the outgassing halts and readings go down, to resemble background radiation levels.
The date of this incident matches approximately with the time when UC Berkeley lab detected the first arrival of I-131 and other isotopes in local rain.
They considered the amounts inconsequential, and while I would not yet become alarmed about it, it does confirm at least a very brief exposure at our facility near Ashland, Oregon to some of the trace residues from Fukushima. If that kind of thing became chronic, it would be of concern, but this was not the case. It appears this radiation event was a downstream effect from one or more reactor explosions in Fukushima, Japan on or before March 16th, a time when the jet-stream was oriented nearly exactly West–>East moving fast across the Pacific Ocean. With a jet stream moving at 100 mph, over one day it would move 2400 miles, or 4800 miles in two days. Even considering some lag time for materials to be slowly transported up to the altitude of the jet-stream, this could have brought such radioactive materials to our West Coast USA location in short order.
3. There are several new radiation-detection networks which can be consulted:
A. Radiation Detection Network for Japan
B. Geiger Counter Bulletin
Includes information on the Terrestrial and Atmospheric Radiation Awareness Network (TARA Net) as well as for rdtn.org. This network appears to be just getting started.
C. Weather Online’s Radiation Tracker
Look at the upper right side of this webpage for links to tracking maps, plotting the hypothetical spread of radiation from Fukushima east across the Pacific. You can adjust this to review the situation for Japan, for the USA, or for the entire Northern Hemisphere, and also detailing various radionuclies. Be sure to read the cautionary statements about these products. Especially the map for xenon emissions would wrongly lead one to believe the "end of the world". Keep in mind the color-coding or color-intensity markings on these maps are somewhat arbitrary, determined by the computer programmer. My advice is to consider them as relevant only for wind-direction and atmospheric mixing, given how they are based upon atmospheric computer modelling. Nobody is out there measuring radiation levels in the air, and there is no satellite sensor doing this either. They merely assume so much radiation into the air at Fukushima, then make estimates or assumptions (guesses) on how that radiation mixes in the air, and from there where it will go depending upon prevailing winds. They may or may not assume the loss of radioactivity due to raining-out in storms, for example. This is a problem with computer models, as they only show what you program them to show. Compare these to the probelm of how the fastest and most powerful computers on Earth have difficulty predicting weather more than three days out. A good weather forecaster using "old fashioned" observation can do a good job two days out. And your Grandpa with arthritis in his leg can frequently do just about as good as, or better than either one.
4. The radiation tracking networks previously recommended still are working away, and are among the best resources. Here:
So long as these citizen-run networks show low levels across all those stations, one should not get panicked, in spite of some of the rather wild claims which are circulating on the conspiracy websites (ie, the chameleon Alex Jones and crew). If a significant number of them begin showing regional readings at or above ~100 cpm even over one single day, even for just a few stations in the same region, then you can worry plenty. However, throughout this entire critical situation, so far the only places on the planet which have shown such a situation are in Japan or within a short distance surrounding it. People are rationally expressing concerns about radiation accumulation in the water, soils or food chain in North America, and that might eventually turn out to be of long-term consideration. But right now that is not the case, and there also is a considerable irresponsible alarmism at work, often created by some of the same conspiracy websites which claim the earthquakes were "caused by HAARP" and the "Evil USA" (and which before the earthquake-disaster were preoccupied with "911 trutherism", "chemtrails", "international cabals", "illuminati", etc.). A bit of skepticism towards both government and anti-government, and a lot of self-education on the issues surrounding low- and high-level radiation exposure, would appear to be the most healthy and productive path. The only conspiracy at work in this entire matter has been the irresponsibility of the nuclear power plant vendors and operators, who have a long history of documented deceit, accidents, disasters, and cover-ups. And as we see in Japan itself, these same people are going be put under the spotlight for what happened. It appears very unlikely any new nuclear power plants will be constructed on planet Earth for the next 50 years.
If you don’t own a geiger counter, now would be a decent time to consider a purchase, as part of the self-education process, though be prepared to wait for weeks or months for delivery, given the current high demand for these products.
5. Based upon the continuing nature of these possible risk-exposures, OBRL will soon be obtaining specialized radiation detection instrumentation — a gamma-energy NaI-scintillation spectrum analyzer with computer display and appropriate software — allowing for determinations of specific radioisotopes in water, air, or other material samples. The cost of this equipment is about $7,000 and we are asking for donations to help recover the costs to our limited budget. If you can assist, please use the OBRL donation page, which also carries our contact information:
James DeMeo, PhD
Director of OBRL
Ashland, Oregon, USA