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The damage done to the tsunami-stricken nuclear power station in Japan may change the ecology of the ocean around it permanently.

An AFP article quotes a French nuclear expert:

""Highly radioactive water is flowing inside the buildings and then into the sea, which is worrying for fish and marine vegetation," said Olivier Isnard, an expert at France's Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety.

"One hypothesis is that the reactor vessel is breached and highly radioactive corium is coming out."

Very few news agencies other than the New York Times and a handful of European papers are reporting much detail about damage that the water spilling out of the Fukushima nuclear reactors in Japan into the Pacific Ocean is causing. We lack scientifically-trained reporters, and what is being done to the environment and to the global fisheries is complex, profound, and difficult to explain to the general public.

The other problem is that what is done to the environment by dumping thousands of gallons of tainted seawater back into the ocean is still largely unknown. There are not measurements that tell us how other than human life is specifically affected.

Over the weekend, the New York Times reported:

Earlier on Monday, workers' efforts to plug a leak of contaminated water from the nuclear plant by using sawdust, shredded newspaper and an absorbent powder appeared to be failing.

Water with high amounts of radioactive iodine has been leaking directly into the Pacific Ocean from a large crack discovered Saturday in a six-foot-deep pit next to the seawater intake pipes at the No. 2 reactor. Experts estimate that about seven tons an hour of radioactive water is escaping the pit. Safety officials have said that the water contains one million becquerels per liter of iodine 131, or about 10,000 times the levels normally found in water at a nuclear plant.

After an unsuccessful attempt to flood the pit with concrete to stop the leak, workers on Sunday turned to trying to plug the apparent source of the water -- an underground shaft thought to lead to the damaged reactor building -- with more than 120 pounds of sawdust, three garbage bags full of shredded newspaper and about nine pounds of a polymeric powder that officials said absorbed 50 times its volume of water.

The Iodine-131 that makes up a good chunk of the nuclear material going to sea apparently has a half-life of eight days, which means it dissipates in about that time when mixed with sea water.  A physicist friend tells me that nuclear materials are highly soluble, so they can break down quickly in the ocean.  The salts in the sea water apparently aid in its dissipation.  Measures of water for that substance further out to sea have shown a huge drop off.  

Nothing to fear, right?  This stuff all dissolves into cotton candy after a week or so. Uh, no.

Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) also reported that caesium-137, with a half life of about 30 years, was found in the waters  just a few hundred meters from the crippled nuclear plants at almost 80 times the legal maximum.  That is just an estimate. The numbers, given the leakage of water from the No. 2 reactor area, could make that reading jump hundreds or thousands of times over the coming days.

Both radioactive substances cause cancer if absorbed by humans, and can do so in very small amounts of exposure.  In fish and other sea life it can be much worse.

Other than the general story of nuclear material in the air and water scaring us, most of us aren't getting a full understanding of the impact that this is going to have on our oceans and our food supply for generations.  

We need to get smart.

Radiation 101

An article in "Risk Science Blog," sponsored by the Risk Science Center at the University of Michigan, lays out a lot of it in terms that even science-illiterates like me can understand.

Exposure numbers are not like feet, meters, or pounds. All of the numbers being bandied about involve the release of alpha, beta and/or gamma radiation by radioactive materials.  The rate at which they do that, the number of times per second atoms within them undergo radioactive decay, is where most radiation measurements start.

Ionizing radiation is the byproduct of many nuclear materials' decay.  Why it's dangerous to living things is that it breaks the chemical bonds of the stuff that everything is made of at the atomic level.  It knocks electrons out of their orbits. Neutrons can physically collide with an atom.

All of that messes with the DNA of all living things that cross its path.  The radiation causes  single or double strand breaks of the structure of DNA, the little coded strands that make you you and a fish a fish. Scientists say that there is also possibly an indirect effect when free radicals, produced by the ionizing radiation, attack and modify the bases of a DNA strand.

The measure being used in the media is  a micro Sievert, which is how much of this damaging radiation the body can "safely" absorb.  The general readings were established from a baseline of victims from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings during WWII, then extrapolated upon for other radioactive materials.  

Sieverts, then are supposed to give you some idea as to how radiation really impacts the human body.  We know little about anything else.

Problem At Sea

The tolerance levels for fish and ocean mammals?  There really is not a direct measurement for that. The microbiology of the ocean, its plankton, and other small bits of sea life on which so many sea creatures depend for their daily diet, can be devastated by any amounts of radioactivity being spilled into the vast Pacific.

TEPCO, the operators of the plant, say that there is nothing to worry about. Unless, of course, they really have no clue how much water is really flushing into the ocean. Then you should might want to start worrying.

NISA, and the company's estimates, have been off just a bit off.  The New York Times reported on 3/31/11:

Workers prepared more tanks on Thursday to transfer radioactive water from the turbine buildings at Reactor Nos. 1, 2 and 3 to keep it from flowing into the ocean. But readings taken in the sea near the plant showed that levels of the radioactive isotope iodine 131 have continued to rise, testing at 4,385 times the statutory limit on Thursday, nearly four times higher than on Sunday, said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director general of Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. That rise increases the likelihood that contaminants from the plant are continuously leaking into the sea, he said.

Most of the readings in the sea water are being taken by TEPCO or Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA).  According to a NISA document obtained from their website on 31-March-2011 that shows data for the prior day, there is only one monitoring station at the base of the plant (MP7) where drains for the plant spill out. The readings there on the 30th were 3,750 micro Sieverts per hour.  To give you an idea of how bad that is, on Saturday March 12, the International Herald Tribune reported radiation levels outside the plant as 1.2 micro Sieverts per hour(µSv/h).

New Fish

Fish exposed to radiation at thousands of times the annual dose for humans will either die, or it will radically affect their DNA in the area around the plant where the concentrations are highest.

It will cause all kinds of code-breakages with changes to their evolutionary pattern that are unknown, but DNA damage is a certainty at the levels in the ocean that grow by the day within miles of the plant.

Most affected will be plankton, small sea creatures, kelp and mollusks and shellfish with short ranges of motion.  The bigger problem, though, is that these are food sources to fish which do not have much sense of "boundaries."  They tend to swim where they will. So when the Japanese tell us that it's localized to a few miles of their waters, you have to wonder if they've put up a big net, or if they've just told the fish to stay home and not venture out.

Smaller fish that are local to the shores of the area are consumed by bigger fish that school a bit farther. They in turn can be consumed by tuna or shark with much greater ranges.  It is only a matter of time, then, before either the radioactivity itself, or the genetic damage that it creates, are passed along to the food chain in the Asian Pacific.  From there it finds its way in smaller changes to the Pacific as a whole.

Some of these changes could be very small. Mutations caused by these DNA rewrites could be as harmless as a nice rainbow color in the scales of one species of fish, to the starvation of whales if the plankton changes character, or develops difficulties in proper reproduction, to the extreme of evolution of new species or off-shoots of species because of their "rewiring," by the nuclear fuel floating around in the Pacific.

The Black Hole of Information on Ocean Damage

Interestingly, this story grows worse by the day, has far more potential long-range impact on our oceans than even the massive BP oil spill, and yet is garnering next to no news coverage.

There is not much independent verification of the volume of radiation being put into the ocean by the crippled nuclear reactors, or how specific it is to an area.  Testing at greater distances is only just beginning, weeks after the accident to see how sea life is being affected.

The Japanese fishing industry is dead or near dead, as a result of the spill. The question that no one wants to answer is: How much of the rest of the ocean is the Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster killing?

The perception alone can mean that hundreds of tons of fish that normally find their way to market won't even be hauled out of the sea. That can cause Japan, a fish-hungry nation, to push up the spot market prices of seafood world-wide, as they will be forced to compete with other buyers, including the U.S. to acquire non-tainted, or non-perceptively-tainted seafood sources.  Prices of seafood will rise.

One fish. Two fish. Radioactive fish, new fish.

Someone in our government, the world's other nuclear-savvy governments and marine biologists need to let the world know how bad this spilled water really is going to be on our oceans, our food supply, and our future.

My shiny two.

Updated by Brian Ross at Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 08:33 PM PDT

The Los Angeles Times full story at the L.A. Times' website.

Originally posted to TheCleverTwit on Mon Apr 04, 2011 at 07:03 PM PDT.

Also republished by oo, Nuclear Free DK, Japan Nuclear Incident Liveblogs, and Community Spotlight.


Do you believe that the nuclear authorities in Japan are being forthcoming about the total picture of the leaked radiation into the Pacific?

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Comment Preferences

    •  Yes but nukes have been set off for years (8+ / 0-)

      in the ocean and above the ocean.  Throughout the 1950s.  Surely setting off a Hydrogen bomb in the pacific should've caused more radiation than the Fukushima leak.  Can you explain why those tests haven't made the entire ocean nuclear by the 1970s?  I'm not being facetious, I'm genuinely curious.

      •  I know they test fish for led, that's (6+ / 0-)

        pervasive enough, but do they test fish for radioactivity?

        I know at least 15 people that have had some form of cancer. Ranging from in age from their 10s to the 60s. Can you explain why we're seeing those sorts of mutations in humans at levels that didn't exist prior to the 1950s or so?


        •  Remember that the potassium and calcium (4+ / 0-)

          so abundant in the ocean out-compete strontium and cesium.   These fish will still be swimming in a radioactive bath and accruing mutations and there are other bad elements that could accumulate like cobolt and manganese.

          All in all, a bad situation... but I don't think we'll be eating Cesium tainted fish unless the concentration is so much higher than the potassium in the sea water.  The other meltdown metals, I'm not so sure about... Uncharted waters so to speak.

          Corporations are driven by the bottom line, not by concerns for health, safety or the environment. This is why we need government regulations.

          by the dogs sockpuppet on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 09:46:42 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  They're almost certain to be (0+ / 0-)

            way more damaging

            The other meltdown metals, I'm not so sure about...

            Uranium, which is naturally abundant in sea water, caused one million more mutations via chemical compared to radiological mechanisms.  Roughly the same thing holds for any heavy metal . . ..

          •  I'm not sure (5+ / 0-)

            that consuming fish with mutations in their genes does anything to humans, since humans digest their food, and don't just incorporate other species' genes into their own. But between mercury and radioisotopes, ocean fish is quickly becoming risky.

            Guess we should be on the lookout for fish kills. The iodine will be uptaken readily by algae (seaweed), so seaweed 'farming' areas need to take measures to protect their stock along the east coast of Japan. There's a lot of iodine going out, and concentrated it will last a lot longer than it will in general solution out in the broad sea.

            But don't bet your life that you won't be eating cesium-tainted fish from now on, along with other likely isotopes. If they have to, governments will just 'adjust' their limits higher to account for what's there. Just as they already have in Japan and are in the process of doing here in the US. No matter what, you will ALWAYS be told it's "no danger to the general public."

            Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

            by Joieau on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 01:03:43 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  No "immediate" threat. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              cotterperson, Joieau

              I hate that phrase because it gives them cover.  Immediate is what?  A week?  A month?  A year?

              It's still a danger...

              Corporations are driven by the bottom line, not by concerns for health, safety or the environment. This is why we need government regulations.

              by the dogs sockpuppet on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 01:06:07 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  The problem is not mutation. (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              BlueDragon, Joieau, Terranova0

              The problem is that organisms concentrate nuclear isotopes in particular tissues, depending on the isotope.  Think, thyroid--iodine.  Our own bodies do the same, of course. A very small amount of radiation in the body, in the wrong place a the wrong time, can cause terrible damage if the wrong sort of tumor erupts from cellular disruption.  

              In the meantime, the government can make all of the Pollyanna announcements they wish, but public health officials will eventually know of the toll that this disaster will eventually take on mankind and other organisms on this planet.  

              "If you are going to tell people the truth, be funny or they will kill you." Billy Wilder 1906 - 2002

              by LeftOfYou on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 01:32:58 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Perhaps public health (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                'officials' will know, but they sure as hell won't be telling you. They'll have their plates full just exerting enough political pressure on major universities to keep their epidemiologists from finding what they do NOT want found...

                Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

                by Joieau on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 03:24:36 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  Quickly? (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              the dogs sockpuppet, Joieau
              But between mercury and radioisotopes, ocean fish is quickly becoming risky.

              Actually, it has be for some time now, already . . . .

              But perhaps this will spur a new level of awareness, not only for those oh-so-evil radioisotopes, but also for more mundane (but equally if not more) toxic contaminants such as mercury.

            •  See the Navy nuclear weapons officer's comment (0+ / 0-)

              below. He debunks your thinking pretty darn quickly.

          •  It's not the taint (0+ / 0-)

            It's the change. The cesium levels may never be enough to harm humans, but fish the size of your finger may be genetically altered in ways that affect the next fish that consumes them, and then in turn either causes changes or possibly deprives the larger fish of a needed nutrient. There are so many variables as to the damage possible to be done by even small quantities of cesium alone that it boggles the mind.

            •  That's extremely intriguing (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Wee Mama, Recall
              but fish the size of your finger may be genetically altered in ways that affect the next fish that consumes them

              can you explain - even very vaguely - how that might happen?    

              If you could prove it, you'd almost certainly will a Noble Prize (you seem to be attributing "prion-like" qualities to DNA, that is really very remarkable!!)

              •  Pass on the Nobel because (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                Apparently this is marine science 101. If the nuclear exposure changes the reproductive system of a species of fish that causes it to either reproduce less or not at all, it affects the food chain. That would be one form of such genetic alteration. The others are possible but really unknowns.  Changes in things like color or possibly even how they defend themselves or the speed that they swim can affect the populations. Sardines that can't outrun some predators may end up being consumed faster, along with the human fishing, and drop in population. It can imbalance in other ways, like protecting deer does on land. Too many of a fish that becomes a successful breeder may increase its predators, etc. Then any collapse in the population can set off a chain reaction. These occur normally in nature, but putting the accelerator of nuclear materials doing a DNA wild-card on species may have all kinds of unintended consequences on the genetics of species in the ocean.

                Tell the Swedes where to find me ...

                •  Naturally occurring genetic variabilty (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  WinSmith, Recall

                  is immense (and largely hidden, waiting to be selected for or against by the environment).  Except within a few miles, any increase in genetic variabilty spawned by radioisotopes from Fukishami will almost certainly not be noticeable.

                  But I am sure that people will study this intently to make sure, just like they've studied the proliferation of wildlife that has arisen around Chernobyl in the absence of people.  If any one is interested they can look it up, but going from memory, mutations attributed to radiation that have led to phenotypic changes there have been limited to a small geographical region and have only occurred in 2 or 3 species of birds.  Most animals are unaffected and the ecosystem is very healthy (who'd ever have thunk that the simple absence of humans totally offsets - in a beneficial way - what has often been thought of as the worst nuclear power plant environmental catastrophe ever?)

                •  Actually, what you are describing (0+ / 0-)

                  sounds like "radiation breeding" as described in the following excerpt from the New York Times?

                  He rolled the dice again. This time, he was mimicking what he and his colleagues have been doing quietly around the globe for more than a half-century — using radiation to scramble the genetic material in crops, a process that has produced valuable mutants like red grapefruit, disease-resistant cocoa and premium barley for Scotch whiskey.


                  Though poorly known, radiation breeding has produced thousands of useful mutants and a sizable fraction of the world’s crops, Dr. Lagoda said, including varieties of rice, wheat, barley, pears, peas, cotton, peppermint, sunflowers, peanuts, grapefruit, sesame, bananas, cassava and sorghum. The mutant wheat is used for bread and pasta and the mutant barley for beer and fine whiskey.

                  The mutations can improve yield, quality, taste, size and resistance to disease and can help plants adapt to diverse climates and conditions.

                  if you haven't used up your 20 free articles this month, click here for the entire story

                  you can google it yourself to find out the gory methological details - briefly VERY high levels of radiation are required to elicit the new traits; in fact the levels required kill a substantion proportion of the plant involved.    Very, very, very have beneficial traits - and when the plants do the new characteristics probably would not survive out in the wild where the new plant is not well adapted for a natural environment.

                  The bottom line is that endowing organisms with new characteristics takes a whole lot of work and effort - it is NOT going to happen on anything larger than a very regional scale from Fukishami.

      •  Explanation (11+ / 0-)

        The fallout, as explained to me by a physicist friend, of the test explosions at Enewetak Atoll and other above-ground explosions contained materials with low half-life, like the 8 day iodides that are in some of the fuel being used here. The larger problem is that this was weapons grade uranium from Russia, filled with other isotopes that have 10, 15 and 30 year half-lives. No one has ever dumped that much water into the ocean with these kinds of isotopes at these levels.

      •  From a former nuclear weapons officer, U.S. Navy (5+ / 0-)

        Each atomic and thermonuclear detonation during the years of testing in the Pacific entailed the use of relatively small amounts of fissionable material compared to the tons of radioactive fuel used in utility scale nuclear reactors like GE's BWR's at Fukushima.  Further, the fission products of a runaway chain reaction like a bomb detonation are different in type and quantity than the products of nuclear power utility electric generation.  

        Nuclear weapons use uranium or plutonium, usually plutonium, in small amounts, measurable in a kilos or even less.  The entire mass fission process in a bomb lasts fractions of a second.  Nuclear reactors use an amalgam of materials including plutonium and uranium, usually uranium, and prolong the controlled fission process for very long time periods, resulting in a witch's brew of dangerous isotopes.  Also don't be fooled by claims that the vastness of the Pacific will absorb this radioactive blow without a shiver or a whimper. Because

        1.  Anyone who says so is just talking out of their hat. The hypothesis is scientifically untested.  

        2.  The argument ignores the fact that living organisms concentrate radioactivity.  Sea life on the Pacific coast of Northern Japan is taking a hell of a does of very dangerous stuff. Fish and seafloor life can't detect radiation, so have no way to swim away as they might from an oil spill or other pollution disaster. The Fukushima reactors are performing a huge, ad hoc, uncontrolled science fair experiment on the ecology of the world spanning ocean system that covers more than 3/4 of our planet. Way to go, TEPCO.  I can't wait to see how this turns out.  

        Atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons was banned more or less world wide because it was a very bad and dangerous idea. When I was young, we worried about levels of Strontium 90 in our milk supply in the Mid-West USA. Nuclear power plants have not been banned because if they operate as desired and promised by their operators, they don't poison the environment the way that atmospheric testing of weapons did in the 40's through the 60's. But these plants create legacy problems that must also be managed forever if horror is not to break out, sooner or later, somewhere.  

        "If you are going to tell people the truth, be funny or they will kill you." Billy Wilder 1906 - 2002

        by LeftOfYou on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 01:27:59 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The entire contents of (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          LeftOfYou, Joieau, Roadbed Guy, Wee Mama

          the core of a 1000 MWe reactor has, at shutdown about 5 percent of the radioactivity of the contents of the ocean. That's a significant fraction of the natural activity. After 10 years it decays down to about 30 ppm of the total activity, if I have done the math correctly. So here's hoping most of the activity remains in what's left of the reactors at Fukushima. Hard to be to confidant of that at the moment. Here's a link to an earlier comment of mine giving the sources I used for those numbers.

          So even if the mixing were total from day 1, I suppose bioconcentration might well cause problems with one isotope or another. And of course it's not mixed for a while, and if plants and animals get to it before it mixes, it goes up the food chain.

          I read somewhere once that the activity inside a large reactor at full power, counting the fission reactions, is about equal to the radioactivity in the entire earth's crust. And there are something like 400 of them running at any time these days.

          That's a lot of badness waiting for an opportunity to get out.

          Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

          by billmosby on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 06:03:04 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  And just like hamsters (0+ / 0-)

            on a wheel, they want nothing more than to get out.

            Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

            by Joieau on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 10:29:44 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  But don't you think that most of the (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            radioisotopes will remain fairly "local" (maybe within 50 km or so?) ?

            I'm not sure what I mean by most, but let's say 80% of them - that would imply that the radioactivity of the rest of the ocean would increase by about 1% - over the period of many years while the currents circulated here and there.  In fact, this will probably be a really good way to follow currents and the flow of the ocean.

            In a best case scenario, this will scare alot of people from eating seafood . . . .

            •  Read the paper (0+ / 0-)

              The levels are at millions of times the norm for humans, which factors up dramatically for fish and smaller marine life like plankton. Some of the isotopes that are being released into the sea with 30 year half-life have never been turned loose in the environment.  If a fish ingests a bit of sea water with even highly diluted cesium, that isotope will stay in the body of that fish, and any other sea creature that consumes it, for more than a 100 generations of sea life. It permanently alters the fisheries of that region. Should any fish be picked up in a ballast scoop by a ship, and released into the sea hundreds of miles away, it begins to bring that DNA shift into another population.

              •  Highly diluted cesium is not going to (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                hurt the fish or increase it's mutation rate in any way that will be observable in the entire population of fish.

                Whether or not people should be eating the fish is a more thorny issue.  Any highly diluted (assuming that it really is highly diluted - a precise definition here would be helpful) isotope is not going to be a health hazard.  

                However people are really squeamish about this type of thing, so health authorities around the world should do rigorous testing and make the results known so that people can opt to, or not to, eat the "contaminated" food.

                I'm hoping they opt not to - it'd be a really good break for the ocean and allow a few of the over-fished species a bit of a respite

              •  Never been poured directly (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Wee Mama

                into the sea, perhaps. But hundreds of weapons tests and Chernobyl certainly did release lots of the two 30 year half life isotopes I know about, Cs-137 and Sr-90, and at least the test material probably made it into the oceans. Much better distributed than in the current case, however.

                Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

                by billmosby on Wed Apr 06, 2011 at 06:24:20 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  Not much of an expert on that, (0+ / 0-)

              unfortunately. But I hope somebody is doing surveys already.

              Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

              by billmosby on Wed Apr 06, 2011 at 06:25:18 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  Excellent summary! n/t (0+ / 0-)
        •  It's done broken out. Now. (0+ / 0-)

          Godzilla may have been created by nuclear weapons, but that's not what Godzilla eats. He eats power plants. For lunch.

          Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

          by Joieau on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 10:31:43 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Have you seen this? (13+ / 0-)

      Japan's ocean radiation hits 7.5 million times legal limit

      The reading of iodine-131 was recorded Saturday, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said. Another sample taken Monday found the level to be 5 million times the legal limit. The Monday samples also were found to contain radioactive cesium at 1.1 million times the legal limit.

  •  I hate to make a joke about "blinky" (18+ / 0-)

    the 3 eyed fish from The just isn't funny after reading your diary, except in a very macabre way.

    "The revolution's just an ethical haircut away..." Billy Bragg

    by grannyhelen on Mon Apr 04, 2011 at 08:25:57 PM PDT

  •  We're just weeks out... (8+ / 0-)

    ...and the negative consequences seem to be accelerating from this disaster.

    And I'm pretty sure that the worst is not over.

    The so-called "rising tide" is lifting only yachts.

    by Egalitare on Mon Apr 04, 2011 at 09:05:20 PM PDT

  •  And once DNA is disrupted, (5+ / 0-)

    it can never be put back together again, right?

    Talk about your "black holes of information", lol.

    Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

    by billmosby on Mon Apr 04, 2011 at 09:19:14 PM PDT

    •  Sort of explains the modern republican party (10+ / 0-)

      They would've stayed Bob Dole republicans (aka sane and fact based) if not for genetic mutations in the mid 1990s.

    •  You are being snarkish, I presume? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      billmosby, cotterperson

      meh, I can't really tell about that type of thing anymore . . . .

    •  Not if you're a bacteria . . . (6+ / 0-)
      Los Alamos' Omega West is a swimming-pool-type research reactor whose fuel rods are suspended under 25 ft. of water, which acts not only as coolant and moderator but also shields its human operators from radioactivity. In the spring of 1958, physicists peering down through it saw that the water was getting cloudy. They called Chemist-Bacteriologist Eric B. Fowler of the laboratory's radioactive-waste disposal group, who found that it was swarming with microorganisms, about i billion per quart. The bugs turned out to be rod-shaped bacteria of the genus Pseudomonas, which were feeding on resin and felt in the water purifying system.

      The fierce radiation in the reactor appeared to bother the bacteria hardly at all. When the reactor was shut down but still highly radioactive, they multiplied fast. Even when it was running full blast, they held their own. Since they normally divide every 20 minutes or so, this meant that radiation was killing only about as many as managed to live and divide. Just how much radiation the Pseudomonas got is hard to estimate, because the water circulates at varying distances from the core of the reactor, but Dr. Fowler thinks they may have absorbed more than 10 million rep (roentgen equivalent physical) in an eight-hour day, which is 10,000 times the dose that is fatal to man.

      Read more:

      •  I remember seeing this recently (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Roadbed Guy, cotterperson, Wee Mama

        somewhere, thanks for the memory jog.

        Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

        by billmosby on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 12:26:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Deinococcus radiodurans is actually (6+ / 0-)

          even more resistant, that was what I was looking for (not the Time article, although I suppose for Time it's a refreshing break):

          Bacteria belonging to the family Deinococcaceae are some of the most radiation-resistant organisms yet discovered. Deinococcus (Micrococcus) radiodurans strain R1 (ATCC BAA-816) was first reported in 1956 by A. W. Anderson and coworkers of the Oregon Agricultural Experimental Station, Corvalis, Oregon. This obligate aerobic bacterium typically grows in rich medium as clusters of two cells (diplococci) in the early stages of growth, and as clusters of four cells (tetracocci) in the late stages of growth, is non-pathogenic, and best known for its ability to survive extremely high doses of acute ionizing radiation (10,000 Gy) without cell-killing. For comparison, 5 Gy is lethal to the average human, and 2,000 Gy can sterilize a culture of Escherichia coli. D. radiodurans is capable of growth under chronic radiation (60 Gy/hour) and resistant to other DNA damaging conditions including exposure to desiccation, ultraviolet (UV) light, and hydrogen peroxide.


          •  I keep waiting on the (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Roadbed Guy, Drama Queen

            brilliant researcher who will engineer a spore-forming bacteria/fungal type techno-organism using requisite genes from the above strains plus the ones growing on the Chernobyl sarcophagus, that can be turned loose on spent fuel and meltdowns to 'eat' the gnarliest isotopes, metabolize them into harmless waste products ('inert filler' in ag fertilizers not nearly as harmful as fly ash!), and then die like good little tools when the food source runs out...

            Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

            by Joieau on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 01:49:23 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Well, according to the link I gave (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              just above, the US Military is more or less attempting to do something like that.

              On occasion, I've been haltingly skeptical of the US Military, but here I will give them the benefit of the doubt and endorse their efforts.    Or we could use the required funds for this research to buy another predator missile to kill kids in Afghanistan, who knows - that type of decision is well above my pay grade.

              •  Yeah, above my (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Roadbed Guy

                pay grade too. Military research often (in the past, anyway) returns benefits to the general economy, it just takes about 20 years longer than it should because everything they touch is f*cking 'classified'.

                Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

                by Joieau on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 03:34:23 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  good diary! (12+ / 0-)

    I put 'don't know don't care' only because imo it doesn't matter now if TepCo is doing their best or not — I feel bad for them/  it could have happened anywhere / hey maybe it was global warming that ultimately caused it / blah blah nice cakes

    ...but this is an international issue, not just Japan's ball of wax. They've clearly had issues dealing with this (like not knowing about larger pumps being available, as in, they weren't aware there were such beasts... what else aren't they aware of that could be helping now?)

    There needs to be an international group in there now managing this (hopefully one without corporate interests). Nobody wants to take over Japan, but they ain't GOT this.

    "Ridiculous, counter-productive, and stupid." —P.J. Crowley on the treatment of Bradley Manning

    by IndieinVa on Mon Apr 04, 2011 at 09:53:44 PM PDT

    •  I think you are right (0+ / 0-)

      but I think Japan has to finally give up and request the aid.  But , IIRC, didn't they do that already?

      My Grandma Daisy: "If you are right and the other fellow is wrong, it is your duty to set him straight!"

      by glitterscale on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 10:43:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Nukes across the board (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Drama Queen

      are an unfortunately self-isolated group of folks with serious ego issues. They don't tend to pay much attention to any kind of science, engineering or technology outside their circumscribed little corners, probably because they aren't exactly the most universally 'respected' group of arrogant sci-types. Earned their reputation the hard way, of course, but it wouldn't hurt a few of them to broaden their participation in multi-disciplinary fields of investigation and development.

      Then they wouldn't be so damndably ignorant of what 'else' is going on in the world.

      Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

      by Joieau on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 01:53:58 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  "Blue fish" works, Cherenkov radiation et al, nt (5+ / 0-)

    Renewing the Bush tax cuts was the ultimate sell out of a presidency without any scruples.

    by Celtic Pugilist on Mon Apr 04, 2011 at 10:08:40 PM PDT

  •  I (8+ / 0-)

    don't think the idea of new evolution at the radiation levels you're citing is extreme at all.

    Genetic code breaks re-attach in all sorts of random ways, like the RNA doing a 'patch job' on a jammed signal.  The resulting 'pops and static' could appear as any number of anomalies.

    Will be very interesting to keep an eye on.

    •  DNA, not R, n/t (3+ / 0-)

      Inhabit Harmony.

      by Maori on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 01:21:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Genetic changes (9+ / 0-)

      Can be pretty. They can make plankton inedible to whales. Bye bye whales.  It can be a simple as a third fin on a fish that had two. It can be as bad as mutating a species out of existence because it can't reproduce.  The daisy chain, then up the food chain to us is both profound and scary.  A lot of the world relies on those oceans to feed themselves. Starvation is a real extreme that we should not want to see happen, if anything can be done to stop this.

      •  I apologize, (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Drama Queen, cotterperson, Joieau

        I was really sleepy last night and totally flubbed that first comment.

        I didn't mean the DNA itself would re-attach randomly, I meant the way the genetic material responds to gaps, or manipulations of original instructions.  Things getting turned 'on' or 'off', as well as mutations.

        The pretty fish with the third fin may have a set of pirahna chops, a duplicated set of reproductive organs, or a gene that prolongs its life.  The implications of intentional (human created) genetic mutation are are as fascinating as frightening.  

        I guess I can be optimistic, and imagine there would be a balance of positive mutations to harmful ones, but working upward to more complex genomes is the wild card.

        Inhabit Harmony.

        by Maori on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 10:17:52 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  genetic changes (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Sneelock, Roadbed Guy, Joieau, Wee Mama

        Some of those don't seem very likely:

        A genetic change could (in theory) make the mutated plankton inedible to whales, but that wouldn't affect the rest of the plankton in the oceans. That particular change would either have to occur in all the plankton at once or start in a few specimens and be sufficiently advantageous that those plankton out compete and replace all others.

        Even more so, a species can't mutate out of existence unless all/most  members have enough genetic damage to be unable to breed. Obviously a  mutation preventing breeding isn't going to spread, so only those individuals directly affected will carry it.

        It's scary, but let's not get carried away with post apocalyptic

        The Empire never ended.

        by thejeff on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 10:47:16 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  That seems right to me (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Roadbed Guy, Wee Mama

          If a sea-creature/plant gets DNA damaged, some cells(or the whole creature) may die.  But meaningful(successful) mutations are unlikely to be reproduced in a significant way.

          Mutation may not be a significant danger.  But there are plenty of others things to worry about.  

          •  Protein damage is probably more (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            elfling, Sneelock, cotterperson, Joieau

            relevant that DNA damage:

            Death By Protein Damage

            The modern founding concept of radiation biology that deals with X-rays and g-rays is that ionizing radiation is dangerous because of its damaging effects on DNA. Mounting experimental evidence does not fit into this theoretical framework, instead supporting that radiation resistance is governed by protein damage. Recent studies from several independent labs implicate protein damage as the major probable cause of death in irradiated cells. Whereas DNA lesion-yields in cells exposed to a given dose of radiation appear to be fixed, protein-lesion yields are variable and closely related to survival. There are profound practical implications to this new view of radiation toxicity � Basically, if you want to survive radiation, protect your proteins!


            •  Dissociation and spontaneous (0+ / 0-)

              blow-ups of necessary proteins are definitely a toxic affect of radiation ionization as well as incorporation of unstable isotopes into proteins. But the worst has to do with plain old H2O - water. Since we are in fact mostly made of water. Ionizing radiation quite effectively turns water into hydrogen peroxide. Being poisoned from the inside out by hydrogen peroxide isn't a pleasant way to go...

              Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

              by Joieau on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 02:02:58 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  In that case I suppose we owe Mother Nature (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Wee Mama

                a debt of gratitude for evolving peroxidases that protect our cells from hydrogen peroxide.

                Although, in reality ionization radiation is more likely to produce reactive oxygen species other than hydrogen peroxides (but again, Mother Nature is prepared - she has super oxide dismutases standing by . . .. ).

                Of course, at some level of exposure these defenses become overwhelmed.   As they almost certainly have been for valiant but hapless workers trying to extinguish Fukishama.   And almost certainly have not for virtually everyone else . . ..

                •  Yeah, that's probably why (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Drama Queen

                  oxidation of tissues by free radicals is never an issue for humans, and humans never age and die. Probably not why one of the first things taught to perspective HPs is that lethal gamma doses that aren't quite high enough to immediately destroy the lining of the digestive system tend to involve internal poisoning by hydrogen peroxide.

                  Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

                  by Joieau on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 03:40:59 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  oxidation of tissues by free radicals (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Wee Mama

                    occurs due to normal metabolism - there are about 20,000,000,000 (20 billion) reactive oxygen species (ROS) produced each day in each cell this way.

                    In comparison, one radioisotopic disintigration event produces a maximum of about 70,000 ROS - so if you do the math, you need a significant (but not outrageously high) boost in radiation above background to substantially increase the ROS burden to a cell.

                    As an aside, caloric restriction (at least in fruit flies and mice) is a fairly effective way to reduce aging, supposedly due to less oxidative damage due to less ROS production attributed to lower metabolism.

                    Based on that, low to moderate levels of radiation are probably much more likely to increase the rate of aging than what they are usually assumed to do (i.e., increase the possibility of cancer).

              •  I might add (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Wee Mama

                that cells spend an incredible amount of their resources to maintain the integrity of DNA for example, DNA Repair enzymes were Science Magazine's Molecule Of The Year a while back

                Proteins, by contrast, are largely regarded as dispensible (has anybody heard of a "protein repair enzyme?" ?!?!)

                •  Yeah, but the DNA (0+ / 0-)

                  your DNA repair enzymes may (or may not) repair belongs exclusively to you. Mutated, damaged or otherwise imperfect DNA in plants and animals you eat doesn't count.

                  Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

                  by Joieau on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 03:43:03 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I'm not quite sure what you're getting at (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Wee Mama

                    sure, * your * DNA repair enzymes only repair   * your * DNA - the DNA you eat is digested, it is in no need of repair wrt to * your * health

                    Of course, before you eat them while they are still alive plants and animals have their own DNA repair enzymes to repair their DNA . . .

                    •  What would I know of DNA? (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:
                      Roadbed Guy

                      My Genetics course [visiting] prof was Isaac Asimov. Got to take it only because I was current in biophysics /crystallography. So I did. I wasn't really interested in genetics...

                      The assertions here were that if you eat critters (and plants, if we're going to do that extrapolation to food supply) that have damaged-by-radiation DNA, you'll die of radiation damaged DNA. That is, in my knowledge base (such as it is), not true. What you might die of is the leftover radiation from accumulated isotopes in your food supply that will zap YOUR DNA into cancerous oblivion.

                      Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

                      by Joieau on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 10:14:48 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Yes, I think I see what you are saying (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Joieau, Recall

                        I suppose the entire concept that one could eat mutated DNA, which in turn could then turn around and mutate your DNA, was just so bizarre I didn't realize at first that was actually what the diarist was proposing in several of his comments.  

                        But it seems to be crystal clear now that's exactly what he was doing.  As I noted above, if he can prove that can happen (and more importantly, HOW), he definitely deserves a Nobel Prize

            •  That is true at one level, but (0+ / 0-)

              at another, ingested cesium in small fish can cause all kinds of unpredictable variables.

        •  Maybe the rest of the (0+ / 0-)

          living world will luck out and it'll be US who go sterile. Lord knows we're sure trying hard enough with a varied load of toxic ag chemicals, plastics, etc., a little radiation-induced sterility could do nothing but help that along. Then we wouldn't be here to demolish mountains, dump toxic heavy metals from coal combustion all over the planet, and radiate the hell out of ourselves and everything else just to get a few 'trons to toast bagels for breakfast.

          The world wouldn't miss us.

          Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

          by Joieau on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 02:00:04 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Except (0+ / 0-)

          That changes and mutuations tend to continue to extend through a variety of means. Let's say that a ship that picks up ballast in the Asian Pacific dumps it about 30 miles outside of San Francisco on its way into port. It has some of the mutated plankton or other nuclear-altered sea life.  Now you have a new problem off of the coast of California.  The fact is that we have no scientific data to track how this will affect the sea, or how widespread it will be.  The potential, though, given everything from ocean currents to schooling fish to commercial vessels moving around the globe do not bode well for us.

    •  Will be interesting to keep an eye on.... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      glitterscale, cotterperson, Joieau

      ...or three.

      This better be good. Because it is not going away.

      by DerAmi on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 06:51:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Life is totally accomodating to radiation (6+ / 0-)

      and can even eat it:

      Researchers discover 'radiation-eating' fungi

      "Just as the pigment chlorophyll converts sunlight into chemical energy that allows green plants to live and grow, our research suggests that melanin can use a different portion of the electromagnetic spectrum—ionizing radiation—to benefit the fungi containing it," says Dr. Dadachova.

      The research began five years ago when Dr. Casadevall read on the Web that a robot sent into the still-highly-radioactive damaged reactor at Chernobyl had returned with samples of black, melanin-rich fungi that were growing on the reactor's walls. "I found that very interesting and began discussing with colleagues whether these fungi might be using the radiation emissions as an energy source," says Dr. Casadevall.

      To test this idea, the Einstein researchers performed a variety of in vivo tests using three genetically diverse fungi and four measures of cell growth. The studies consistently showed that ionizing radiation significantly enhances the growth of fungi that contain melanin.

      For example, two types of fungi--one that was induced to make melanin (Crytococcus neoformans) and another that naturally contains it (Wangiella dermatitidis)—were exposed to levels of ionizing radiation approximately 500 times higher than background levels. Both species grew significantly faster (as measured by the number of colony forming units and dry weight) than when exposed to standard background radiation.

      The researchers also carried out physico-chemical studies into melanin's ability to capture radiation. By measuring the electron spin resonance signal after melanin was exposed to ionizing radiation, they showed that radiation interacts with melanin to alter its electron structure. This is an essential step for capturing radiation and converting it into a different form of energy to make food.


  •  Although it's all very interesting.... (3+ / 0-)

    ...this is an unprecedented disaster. There weren't the safeguards, there wasn't a contingency plan, there are seriously no remedies that will contain the's all good to know the details if you enjoy that sort of thing. The fact is that the planet will be massively poisoned, ecosystems and animal populations will all be affected....we'll die or mutate. I think that's pretty straightforward. I'm not sure that getting worked up about it makes much difference if there aren't any actual solutions in existence at the moment.

  •  thanks for the analysis (8+ / 0-)

    the ramifications are stark.

    I guess since we can't "see" Radioactivity

    -- like we can't "see" CO2 increases,

    must mean that they Do Not Exist.

    -- I mean where are the Sound-bite Pictures?

    Got Time?
    Take ten, to find something else informative and fun to read. Thx.

    by jamess on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 05:48:59 AM PDT

  •  An overwhelming and astounding (7+ / 0-)

    proportion of the reports I've heard strongly downplay the possible consequences as though we needn't worry about that man behind the curtain.  

    Millions of gallons of radioactive seawater?  No problem, the oceans are vast and it will be diluted.  

    Radioactive iodine level a million times above the safe limit?  Don't worry about it, it has a short half life.  Cesium?  Hey, look over there...

    Even  NPR this morning ran a segment basically pumping up the safety of sushi, because, you know, those tuna only swim past the plant, they don't live there.

    You can't spell CRAZY without R-AZ.

    by rb608 on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 06:05:26 AM PDT

  •  "no immediate danger" (4+ / 0-)

      Every time I read this verbage, I see it as a cover-up or half truth which is also a half lie.  Granted gov't and corps don't want panic, but couching the facts in a short term scenario ONLY is where the cover-up begins.  Next we will be told that any genetic anomaly will be just a minor "unintended consequence" or as Rumsfeld liked to say, an unknown unknown.  
        Any college biology student should recognize that this will be an epic cover-up and a long term problem, while politicians and corporations will gamble that the short attention span of many will win their day.

    •  The media is too ignorant (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      northsylvania, Joieau

      to understand the difference between a brief exposure to modest radiation and the actual consumption and absorption of radionuclides.
      ..."and would you like a little caesium with your sushi, sir." The stuff melts on a warm day, and produces quite a bit of heat on its own, so maybe we may as well add it to wasabi.

      "I almost died for the international monetary system; what the hell is that?" ~ The In-laws

      by Andhakari on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 07:22:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Sellafield UK released radioactivity to the sea (10+ / 0-)

    This Guardian article provides a good introduction to Sellafield.

    This disaster in Japan is not the first time large amounts of radioactivity have been released to the ocean. Experience shows that it's a huge problem for Japan, but the release of radioactivity is not going to have global consequences.

    There are places in Brazil where thorium has naturally concentrated in the near surface environment, exposing local fauna and flora to large doses of radiation for generations. The genetic effects are local.

    FWIW, mercury released to the ocean by burning coal for power and cement production is forever. It bioaccumulates in fish. Fish at the top of the food chain may contain dangerously high amounts of mercury. Because so much coal is burned worldwide, mercury in fish is a global problem.

    I think we need to keep our perspective. This is a catastrophe for Japan but it is not a global threat like climate change or mercury pollution. As bad as this is, coal is worse.

    look for my eSci diary series Thursday evening. "It's the planet, stupid."

    by FishOutofWater on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 06:11:58 AM PDT

    •  Beg to differ (5+ / 0-)

      The content of the reactors in Fukushima are of a kind of radioactive material that is not like the naturually occurring kind or the bombs dropped in testing.  They have half lives in the decades, and they don't break down as well in sea water. Fish that digest them will pass on that active nuclear component to other fish for 30 years. That is not the same as Brazil, where the radioactivity is a given in nature there and the half-life of the material coming in contact with marine life is short. It affects local populations, not long distance.  This garbage can be carried as far as fish can eat and swim in 30 years.  That is a different level of harm.

      •  FishoutofWater has a point about Sellafield (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Isara, DRo, glitterscale, Sneelock, ybruti

        From Greenpeace's website:

        Originally named Windscale with the purpose of producing plutonium for the British nuclear weapons program, it is now predominantly a commercial site with reprocessing facilities, fuel fabrication and other installations. It has one of the highest concentrations of radioactive waste on theplanet, a disastrous safety record with hundreds of accidents involving the release of radioactive substances into the environment and their radiation of workers.

        The reprocessing plants at Sellafield discharge some 8 million litres of nuclear waste into the sea each day. The Irish Sea is one of the most radioactively contaminated seas in the world. In the vicinity of the complex, groundwater, estuaries and soil are contaminated, with levels in the area around Sellafield exceeding contamination inside the Chernobyl exclusion zone. Compared to the British average, there has been a ten-fold increase of childhood leukaemia around Sellafield. Plutonium dust has been found in the houses of residents living along the Irish Sea coast.

        If you're curious, researching the incidence of mutation in marine life could start in the Irish Sea, where it has been going on for a while.
        •  The thing about Greenpeace, the organization (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cotterperson, Wee Mama

          that once proposed banning chlorine, is that they don't have any better scientific handle on this situation

          For example, the excess power-plant caused cancers were debunked by PubMed (a search engine for peer-reviewed science: Leukaemia incidence in Welsh children linked with low level radiation--making sense of some erroneous results published in the media.

          A series of self-published epidemiological reports purporting to show a major excess risk of leukaemia in pre-school children living near the Irish Sea coast of Wales have been presented in the media as evidence of the harmful effects of low level radiation arising from Sellafield. The Welsh Cancer Intelligence and Surveillance Unit (WCISU), the body responsible for population-based cancer information in Wales, can provide insights into the validity of these reports, which appear to be a consequence of various mistakes. This raises important questions about the research governance of such reports and the communication of scientific findings via the mass media. Without suitable safeguards the media are in danger of promulgating misinformation.

          Instead, The British Journal of Cancer this January linked these cases of Childhood Leukemia (CL) to infections


          An infective basis in CL, albeit not specifically identified, is strongly indicated by the significant relation of CL excesses with marked rural PM found in some 12 studies in 6 countries. It is striking that this same relation has also been found around, or near, each of the three large European nuclear reprocessing sites, of Sellafield, Dounreay, and La Hague, and also near the ordnance factory of Burghfield, though here as well as near Dounreay, the PM was unrelated to the nuclear site.

          •  Even so, (0+ / 0-)

            there is no argument about the amount of radiation in the immediate environment, which is the point FishoutofWater was making about the relative dangers of the Fukushima discharges. Yes, it's bad but yes, it has also happened somewhere else and no, it might not spell total disaster for all marine life in the immediate vicinity.

            •  To me it seems like people are just to eager (0+ / 0-)

              to conflate two rather separate issues:

              1) the health impact on people - while not severe (compared to coal, for example)  - it is still unacceptable.

              2) the impact on sealife, the planet, whatever - essentially "life" will cope - heck, Life evolved on a much more radioactive planet than we live on today!  It can deal with it (and as I posted earlier, in some cases such as Chernobyl's radiation-eating fungi, even benefit . . .)

  •  Today in Ibaraki (7+ / 0-)

    Fishermen in Ibaraki caught some smelt sized fish which were radioactive.  The  government which has no radioactive health levels for fish decided to used that for vegetables.   With that in mind the government and the local fishermen in Ibaraki decided to suspend fishing operations and not to sell what had all ready been caught.  

  •  SPEEDI readings stable. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    andromeda, cotterperson, Wee Mama

    Japan's NISA: "No fishing is occurring nearby and the sea is dispersing the iodine so there is no health threat." Iodine = 8-day half-life.

    The ocean readings at the 25 mile range show very low trace amounts. The most "contaminated" food sample they have tested came in at 3 becquerel per kilogram compared to the limit for commercial safety at 500 becquerel per kilogram. That's 3 atoms decaying per kilogram.

    Aerial radiation is where a credible threat would develop. Consider the standards. 5,700 nanoGrays/hour = 35,000,000 nanoGrays/year = 5 REM/year. That's the IAEA approved limit for lab workers. Compare to monitors at Hitachinaka City.

    5,700 vs. 464 is the measure of risk. That "464" is the single highest reading in Japan outside the evacuation region. Other monitors within 2 kilometers of this one are showing readings from 140-260:

    -- 464 nGy/h - 10:00 PM local time on the 5th

    -- 463 nGy/h - 9:00 PM local time on the 4th

    -- 480 nGy/h - 9:00 PM local time on the 3rd

    -- 499 nGy/h - 9:40 PM local time on the 2nd

    -- 536 nGy/h - 5:10 AM local time on the 1st of April

    -- 556 nGy/h - 9:40 AM local time on the 31st

    -- 575 nGy/h - 11:00 PM local time on the 30th

    -- 597 nGy/h - 4:40 AM local time on the 29th

    -- 646 nGy/h - 6:50 PM local time on the 28th

    -- 684 nGy/h - 10:20 PM local time on the 27th

    -- 786 nGy/h - 11.00 PM local time on the 25th

    -- 866 nGy/h - 8:20 PM local time on the 24th

    -- 957 nGy/h - 7:30 PM local time on the 23rd

    -- 1012 nGy/h - 1:10 AM local time on the 23rd

    -- 1221 nGy/h - 7:20 PM local time on the 22nd

    -- 1178 nGy/h - 9:20 PM local time on the 21st

    -- 1145 nGy/h - 6:10 PM local time on the 21st

    -- 1160 nGy/h - 4:30 PM local time on the 21st of March

    Hitachinaka City in Ibaraki Prefecture has consistently had the highest radiation readings anywhere in Japan. Most of the monitors at HC are running in the 90-to-230 range.

    SPEEDI readings to the north are running in the 20 nanoGrays/hour. To the west it's 35 to 40 nanoGrays/hour which are their normal background readings. Industrialize areas go 2 to 3 times as much.

    The hottest monitor near Tokyo shows 100 nGy/h.

    Normal readings for that area were running in the 50 - 80 range before the earthquake+tsunami hit Fukushima NPP.

    BTW: the water disposal into the ocean was done, reportedly, to minimize radiation to workers at FNPP.

    The water will be taken down the coastal current, about to Choshi, then out to sea into the Kuroshio Extension current. This flows out into the area of the Pacific known as the Empty Sea because there are no islands and next to no shipping traffic.

    Heavy radioisotopes sink. Lighter radioisotopes such as iodine will disperse.

    Threats, here, are mostly from the minds of Oil Biz and Coal Biz propaganda campaigns. TEPCO has a lot of work ahead to safeguard this site, but there is no live threat to human life apart from hazardous jobs at the site.

    I'm looking for an electric car. Hope to power it from a nuke that is 8 to 15 times greener than natural gas or oil or coal. No guts, no glory !

    Financial capitalism's criminals + Angry White Males + KKK wannabes + Personality Disorder delusionals + George Will =EQ= The GOPer Base

    by vets74 on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 06:35:40 AM PDT

    •  The isotopes that are dangerous... (9+ / 0-)

      My physicist friend said that the isotopes which are truly dangerous don't have to jump a meter to be dangerous.  You can have low readings, as you suggest, and still, just a few atoms of the longer-half-life materials from the Russian nukes that they're using finding their way into fish can continue to radically alter DNA after ingestion for up to 30 years.  The overall meter doesn't jump, but the toxicity of the smaller particulate matter is what is at issue.  You can't test for that, other than to continue to watch what happens to species for which you have some baseline, and then see what damage is done to their DNA over time.  The best thing is to keep the weapons-grade isotopes out of the water, period.  Past that, its going to be significant because these were fuel rods made from weapons-grade materials.

      •  This doesn't make sense. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Roadbed Guy

        Sure thing, at odds of billions to one against there might be a one-atom-to-one-sperm one-off mutation.

        Big whoop.

        Never, ever fly in an airliner during the daytime if that's what worries you. Guaranteed low-level genetic change....

        Financial capitalism's criminals + Angry White Males + KKK wannabes + Personality Disorder delusionals + George Will =EQ= The GOPer Base

        by vets74 on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 10:53:42 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You know, I do sympathize (0+ / 0-)

          with the fact that you've a lonesome job here trying to sell this shit. Perhaps you'll catch a clue and inform the handlers that a new script is very much warranted. It's not working, nobody's believing it anymore.

          Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

          by Joieau on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 10:44:37 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  You have a geiger counter. Bully for you (0+ / 0-)

            The "shit" as you call it has been culled from people with 30+ years in nuclear science whom I called upon, plus direction to a number of direct source materials that lay people like me can read and understand.

            It's easy to get personal. Your expertise, which sounds as land-locked as it is, does not really address the salient question here which is that the science of nuclear impact at sea has very very little data to it.  The natural radiation and the Enewitok type of above-ground blast, or the French sub-surface blasts conducted in the 1970s really don't measure up to the toxic garbage that they've dumped out to sea.

            You might want to check the recent LA Times piece where the levels are now at 7.5 Million times "normal," a questionable baseline as it's for humans. For fish, it may be 10 million times, and for lower sea life it could easily be a 100 million times safe limits.  We just don't know.

      •  You know, the few isotopes in theory (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Wee Mama

        * can * alter DNA for a very long time.

        For example, people have always had about 10,000 atoms of plutonium in them from natural sources.  That number has been bumped up to about 1,000,000,000 from post WW2 weapons testing and that type of thing.

        Is a billion a few or a lot?  Who knows - in any event people are surviving and living longer than ever.    Perhaps, because as I posted elsewhere, humans (and all life for that matter) has a remarkable capacity to repair DNA damage in "real time" as it happens.   If the levels of radioisotopes in your body are so low as to not be measurable by modern instrumenation, they almost certainly fall into the "repairable" category

        •  And what, pray tell, (0+ / 0-)

          are these "natural" sources of plutonium that you speak of?

          Last I checked (and yes, it's been awhile), not even Oklo has any Pu left.

          Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

          by Joieau on Wed Apr 06, 2011 at 08:31:27 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Sure, no problem (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            here's the abstract from PubMed

            Appl Radiat Isot. 1995 Nov;46(11):1245-52.

            Environmental plutonium in humans.
            Taylor DM.

            University of Wales Cardiff, Department of Chemistry, Wales.

            Although the current world inventory of plutonium is overwhelmingly man-made, it is important to recognize that 244Pu was a primeval radioelement and that 239Pu is formed continuously by spontaneous fission of 238U; the atom ratio U:Pu being about 10(11):1. It has been calculated that the human body has always carried a base load of, perhaps 10(3)-10(5) atoms (< 0.2 amol) of natural plutonium. Since 1945, the release of 239Pu into the environment from atmospheric nuclear weapons testing has added to this base load a civilization-related load which, at approximately 300 fmol, is at least 5 orders of magnitude greater. Within the human body plutonium is deposited mainly in the liver and skeleton where it appears to be retained tenaciously with half-times of many years. Based on 1970-1980 levels, environmental plutonium may give rise to alpha-particle radiation doses of approximately 3-7 microSv/a in human bone and approximately 10-20 microSv/a in liver, doses which from our present understanding of the radio-and chemical toxicity of plutonium are far too small to cause any recognizable health effects.

    •  partial debunking of these incomplete numbers (9+ / 0-)

      here from live blog participant Siri.  Vets74 took out his "all of the land based monitors in their national system" line after Siri's comment, but is still not acknowledging the incompleteness of this data.

      Worries about Tepco's continuing FUBAR with no end in sight are coming from the "oil biz and coal biz propaganda campaigns"? that's a conspiracy theory, vets74 -- from the FAQs: "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." Do you have any evidence for your claim? Quotes from Siri's linked comment:

      "I know you're attached to those SPEEDI numbers but it's important to note that since this event, they have not included readings for the prefectures closest to the plant. They've been on the chart in pink and said to be "under survey"....

      "The radiation numbers for the people most likely to be affected are not included in the data you keep providing."

      •  The tsunami wiped out those monitors. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        The java program tags them "Under Survey."

        In fact, they're under mud. And a load of debris.

        Financial capitalism's criminals + Angry White Males + KKK wannabes + Personality Disorder delusionals + George Will =EQ= The GOPer Base

        by vets74 on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 10:50:05 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  yes, that's what you said before (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cotterperson, Joieau

          it's included at the link I provided.

          Why the fact that it was the tsunami nearly a month ago that wiped out those monitors makes any difference when it comes to whether the SPEEDI numbers are complete, I don't understand. Plus there was a Monday (Japan time) story on NHK, which casts further doubts on the completeness of the SPEEDI numbers, as have other reports:

          "Govt did not reveal high level radiation estimate":
          It has been learned that the Japanese government withheld the release of computer projections indicating high levels of radioactivity in areas more than 30 kilometers from the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

          The estimates were made on March 16th following explosions at the plant by an institute commissioned by the government using a computer system called SPEEDI. The system made its projections on the assumption that radioactive substances had been released for 24 hours from midnight on March 14th, based on the available data.

          But the government was reluctant to reveal the SPEEDI projections, and did not release them until March 23rd.

          You write "Hitachinaka City in Ibaraki Prefecture has consistently had the highest radiation readings anywhere in Japan." -- highest anywhere in Japan?

          based on what? incomplete SPEEDI numbers? When  the ISEA talked days ago about how radiation levels in "Iitate, a village located about 40-kilometers northwest of the plant and outside the evacuation zone, were above those believed to be safe for habitation," they didn't talk about Hitachinaka City.  MEXT numbers listing Hitachinaka City show higher levels in other areas, too.

          Those interested in more detail should check the live blog.

          •  Now, now. (0+ / 0-)

            You know better.

            Financial capitalism's criminals + Angry White Males + KKK wannabes + Personality Disorder delusionals + George Will =EQ= The GOPer Base

            by vets74 on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 08:16:07 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  "Know better" than what? (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Brian Ross, ybruti

              The figures TEPCO and the Japanese government are releasing as purported radiation levels in Fukushima City are exactly what I'm reading on my trusty Geiger-Mueller right here in an isolated cove in the mountains of western North Carolina. Halfway around the planet, in case you're confused, and not downwind of anything but Oak Ridge/Clinch River (who could be dumping while they can, but are almost 200 miles away on the other side of the continental divide).

              That tells me that somebody's not telling the truth, and it's probably not my Geiger-Mueller that's lying. Damned thing cost a bundle, and tests out on known sources perfectly. Since I know it's not me who isn't telling the truth, what other choice do I have but to assume the guilty utility in Japan and its protective goon squad in governments the world over are being less than honest?

              Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

              by Joieau on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 10:52:51 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Understand "paranoia" ? (0+ / 0-)

                The SPEEDI system is as reliable as stop lights.

                BTW: the monitors at Fukushima were destroyed by the tsunami.

                Financial capitalism's criminals + Angry White Males + KKK wannabes + Personality Disorder delusionals + George Will =EQ= The GOPer Base

                by vets74 on Wed Apr 06, 2011 at 07:21:50 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I think perhaps (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:

                  you might ought to read this article. No, the NRC isn't being entirely forthcoming in this one (and it's a week and a half old now), but it's a whole lot more revealing than anything we're getting out of TEPCO or the Japanese government. Nastiest revelation...

                  The document also suggests that fragments or particles of nuclear fuel from spent fuel pools above the reactors were blown “up to one mile from the units,” and that pieces of highly radioactive material fell between two units and had to be “bulldozed over,” presumably to protect workers at the site. The ejection of nuclear material, which may have occurred during one of the earlier hydrogen explosions, may indicate more extensive damage to the extremely radioactive pools than previously disclosed.

                  Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

                  by Joieau on Wed Apr 06, 2011 at 08:47:23 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  It's bullshit when articles bemoan (0+ / 0-)

                    -- isn't being entirely forthcoming

                    -- document also suggests

                    -- spent fuel pools above the reactors were blown “up to one mile from the units,”

                    That one is physically impossible.

                    And on and on. It's fearmongering. And Soviet Communism is going to reawaken and invade Western Europe.

                    Financial capitalism's criminals + Angry White Males + KKK wannabes + Personality Disorder delusionals + George Will =EQ= The GOPer Base

                    by vets74 on Wed Apr 06, 2011 at 09:33:15 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  Wow. Your attempt (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      at spin and gross misrepresentation is completely transparent.

                      The document was written by the Reactor Safety Team of and for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. So your claim is that the NRC - including David Lockbaum - is engaged in "fearmongering?"

                      The document does NOT claim that SFPs were blown "up to one mile from the units," you just made that up off the top of your head. The document says just what I cited above in the blockquote. "Fragments" and "particles" FROM the spent fuel pools were blown away by the hydrogen explosions that blew pieces-parts of the reactor buildings far and wide, opening what was left of the SFPs directly to the atmosphere.

                      By the way, nitrogen is now being pumped into the unit-1 containment.

                      Try reading it again. You might learn something.

                      Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

                      by Joieau on Wed Apr 06, 2011 at 10:13:13 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

      •  Problem (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Monitoring equipment, and many of the people who check it, have been wiped out or the equipment was rendered useless by the tsunami on land.  The problem at sea was they really don't have equipment. They go out in boats and take readings, but they don't have the same kind of formal structure, so they've had to put this together impromptu as they go.

    •  How unclever of you to (0+ / 0-)

      so badly attempt sleight of mind by comparing a per-hour dose with a per-year accumulated limitation.

      Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

      by Joieau on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 02:21:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  like the bp spilled oil (4+ / 0-)

    It just disappears into the great big ocean.

    Wonder how many dead baby dolphins will wash up on their shores.

    fact does not require fiction for balance (proudly a DFH)

    by mollyd on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 06:50:52 AM PDT

  •  may change the ocean "around it" permanently? (4+ / 0-)

    doesn't that mean it will change the ocean, period?  what is to stop the currents from carrying the radioactivity to all the oceans of the world?

    "Politics is like driving. To go backward put it in R. To go forward put it in D."
    I support Bob Massie for MA-Sen

    by TrueBlueMajority on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 07:05:10 AM PDT

    •  No. The world is a big place. (4+ / 0-)

      A dispersal range with twice the radius has four times the area, and thus one quarter the concentration.  A range with three times the radius has nine times the area, and 1/9 the concentration.  Radiation lethal within a mile would be trivial within a hundred, and subside into the background beyond that.  This disaster and a dozen more like it wouldn't do a damn thing to the Pacific Ocean.

      Still, as a policy matter, nuclear power has revealed itself to be far more problematic than had been assumed.  I'd been a defender of nuclear, based largely on how Japan and France had (seemingly) organized their energy policies around it.  I've changed my mind.

      The conundrum of stable democracy: Reform requires the consent of the corrupt.

      by Troubadour on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 02:00:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  France has always seemed fairly (0+ / 0-)

        responsible, but Japan has had ongoing issues for some time now.

        You'd think they would have had their wake up call long ago, but sadly they didn't.

        So perhaps this will indeed doom the planet (or more precisely human civilization) to being killed off by coal at just a slightly faster pace than otherwise would have happened.

        •  Let's not get carried away. (0+ / 0-)

          Climate change is dangerous, but human beings are the single most adaptable species in existence.  We can survive temporarily in environments where not even bacteria exist.  We are periodically subject to population bottlenecks, but what comes out the other side tends to be more advanced than before.  

          The conundrum of stable democracy: Reform requires the consent of the corrupt.

          by Troubadour on Wed Apr 06, 2011 at 10:16:56 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Hey, there's an upside: (7+ / 0-)

    Fisheries worldwide are over-stressed. If this doesn't get folks to lay off eating fish, nothing will.

    "I almost died for the international monetary system; what the hell is that?" ~ The In-laws

    by Andhakari on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 07:27:56 AM PDT

  •  Ohh well, we only had until 2048 (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    glitterscale, cotterperson, Joieau

    until we complete the ongoing piscicide of the "commercially viable" fish stocks worldwide.

    If we get it done earlier, imagine how much sooner we can get on with ending the evolutionary line of other creatures.

    This planet is crowded, you know.


  •  7.5 million times legal limit of iodine in sea (8+ / 0-)

    that was the news yesterday in Japan, from samples taken Saturday. Pls. note Japan is 16 hours ahead of California time, which leads to confusion. It's 12:14 Wednesday morning in Japan right now.

    from NHK World website, English language news from Japan, "the voice of the government":

    7.5 mil. times legal limit of iodine in sea
    The operator of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says 7.5 million times the legal limit of radioactive iodine 131 has been detected from samples of seawater near the plant....

    The utility firm said samples of water taken near the water intake of the No. 2 reactor at 11:50 AM Saturday contained 300,000 becquerels of iodine 131 per cubic centimeter, or 7.5 million times the legal limit.

    TEPCO said the figure had dropped to 200,000 becquerels per cubic centimeter, or 5 million times the legal limit, in samples taken at 9:00 AM Monday.

    Monday's sample also contained 1.1 million times the legal limit of cesium 137, which has a half life of 30 years.

    Let alone Tepco's habit of walking back big bad numbers -- sorry for the "mistake" -- Tepco seems to delay announcing such big bad numbers until there is a better number they can point to: "see, things are getting better!"

    As per experts, Cesium 137 builds up in fish / the food chain due to its long half-life.

    I highly recommend that those interested in this story "Follow" the "Japan Nuclear Incident Liveblogs" group, and then all relevant diaries will show up in your "Stream." I can't tell you how to do it, because I can't figure it out although I managed it earlier, maybe somebody else can explain.

  •  Are there no international "rules?" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Drama Queen, Joieau

    Hey, if they can keep this deadly radiation inside the 12 mile limit, fine (even though they can't) but who gave them PERMISSION to contaminate the entire Pacific Ocean?  Either stop it, or keep it in your own country, but don't contaminate mine.  Am I being unreasonable?  Japan depends almost completely on nuclear, they made the choice, then THEY, not ME, should live with the consequences.  

    I see traitors, but they don't know they're traitors....

    by hcc in VA on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 08:33:24 AM PDT

  •  We already know it is a big disaster (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DRo, Sneelock, cotterperson, Joieau

    What are the solutions?

    •  Well, I think they can do better than this: (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Drama Queen, cotterperson, Joieau

      This stuff fits in the back of a contractor's pickup truck!!

      As quoted in the diary from the NYT:

      workers on Sunday turned to trying to plug the apparent source of the water--an underground shaft thought to lead to the damaged reactor building -- with more than 120 pounds of sawdust, three garbage bags full of shredded newspaper and about nine pounds of a polymeric powder that officials said absorbed 50 times its volume of water.

      The labor of a human being is not a commodity or article of commerce. Clayton Act, Section 6.

      by Ignacio Magaloni on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 10:27:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Prevention. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Joieau, Wee Mama, ybruti

      Solar, wind, wave, geothermal?

      In the face of what's old and available, there's no excuse for endangering so much life. Period.

      Unless your only value is money, of course :(

    •  Solutions (0+ / 0-)

      and remediation can't begin until they stop melting and dumping. Until then, everyone in northern Japan needs to lay low.

      Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.

      by Joieau on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 02:31:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I don't think TEPCO (4+ / 0-)

    folks (execs) have a clue about what is going on.  You would think, since Japan is the home of the robot they would have all kinds of robots running around providing pictures and monitoring radiation levels.  But they don't seem to have working monitors, nor near enough equipment to really make a difference with the calamity that is there.

    My Grandma Daisy: "If you are right and the other fellow is wrong, it is your duty to set him straight!"

    by glitterscale on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 10:38:41 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for this well done diary (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Drama Queen, Sneelock, ybruti, Joieau

    You have explained things well and clearly.  I only wish those in the media would do as good a job.  Hats off!!!

    Be the change you want to see in the world. -Gandhi

    by DRo on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 10:46:10 AM PDT

  •  Question (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ybruti, Drama Queen, cotterperson, Joieau

    I was at the grocery store about an hour ago. I saw a beautiful Pacific Halibut and they were pushing it with in-store marketing that it came in fresh today etc. I was attracted to it, but concerned (and it was very expensive), so I opted for the less beautiful,  but local and cheaper whitefish. Do we have to worry about fish from the northern Pacific?

    Using my free speech while I still have it.

    by ebgill on Tue Apr 05, 2011 at 11:27:27 AM PDT

  •  Don't think of it as the end (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    of the oceans and thus humanity.  Think of it as a fresh beginning for The Earth.  

  •  "Deadliest Catch" in Alaska (4+ / 0-)

    might be the radioactive bottom feeding scavengers like Alaskan king crabs, etc.

    It won't be obvious to consumers because radioactivity has no taste like corexit and crude oil with which BP polluted the Gulf of Mexico seafood.

    (Al Qaeda terrorists couldn't do the damage to the planet in their wildest dreams that corporate criminals at BP and TEPCO have done.)

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